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Poll Finds Most Americans Say Anger Over Police Killings Is Justified

June 3, 2020 by Gaspard Le Dem
Demonstrators chant Tuesday, June 2, 2020, at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, during a protest over the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after he was restrained by Minneapolis police. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A Monmouth University poll out Tuesday found a majority of Americans think that anger over police killings of African-Americans is justified, though fewer agree with the actions carried out by some of those protesters.

According to the poll, around 57% of people said that police are more likely to use excessive force against African-Americans, while just 33% said police are as likely to brutalize blacks and whites.

The number of white Americans who say that police are more likely to use excessive force against a black suspect has nearly doubled, increasing from 25% in 2016 to 49% today.

Moreover, the number of people who see racial discrimination as a big problem has significantly increased in the last few years, rising from about 50% in 2015 to roughly 3 in 4 today.

The Monmouth poll, conducted between May 28 and June 1, comes as America is traversing a period of major social unrest. In the last few days, large demonstrations have flared up across the country after the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in Minnesota last week. 

“It seems we have reached a turning point in public opinion where white Americans are realizing that black Americans face risks when dealing with police that they do not. They may not agree with the violence of recent protests, but many whites say they understand where that anger is coming from,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Though many demonstrations have been peaceful, clashes between police and protesters have led to injuries, property damage, and evening curfews in major cities from New York to Los Angeles.

President Trump and many other Republican leaders have met the anger with harsh words that have so far done little to appease the protests, instead emboldening demonstrators to defy curfews.

The president’s response has not helped his popularity, either, which has reached new lows in recent months as the nation struggles to emerge from a pandemic that has now killed more than 100,000 Americans.

In a new record for Monmouth, 74% of people surveyed in the poll said the country was going down the wrong track, up from 60% a month ago. 

Approval ratings have also plummeted for Congress –– they now stand at just 22%, down 10 points from where they were in May.

The Monmouth survey suggests that public opinions towards issues of race and policing have shifted significantly throughout Trump’s presidency. 

But while the majority of Americans empathize with issues of racial injustice, many disagree with violent actions taken during some demonstrations. Only 17% of the public says that actions of protestors, including the burning of a police precinct in Minnesota, are fully justified, though 37% say they are partially justified. Still, 38% of respondents say they are not at all justified. 

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