Recent polls indicate that American viewpoints may have shifted in regard to use of force by police and the role that race plays in deadly police encounters in the U.S. Polls by Monmouth University and YouGov illustrate the changing nature of Americans’ perspectives when it comes to police violence against minorities at a time when many have taken to the streets in cities across the nation to protest in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
According to a poll of Americans by Monmouth University, 17% of respondents believe that the actions of George Floyd protesters are fully justified, 37% believe those actions are only partially-justified and 38% think that the actions are not justified.
The data collected by Monmouth University indicated that 57% of the American respondents said “that the anger that led to these protests is fully justified.” Out of black Americans who responded to the poll, 87% felt that individuals of their race were more likely than whites to experience excessive force by police, an increase from the 77% figure captured in Monmouth’s 2016 poll.
There was also an increase in Monmouth’s polling percentage in the number of white Americans who believe that the police are more likely “to use excessive force against a black culprit,” jumping from 25% in 2016 to 49% in 2020.
Similarly, 39% of white respondents indicated in 2020 that police was just as likely to use excessive force regardless of race, a sharp drown in the 62% who shared those same sentiments in 2016.
Regarding satisfaction of their local police departments, a majority (71%) indicated that they were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied, while 28% were dissatisfied or had no opinion.
“Compared to five years ago, though, overall satisfaction with local police has increased among black Americans (from 50% at least somewhat satisfied in 2015 to 72% now), while it has held more steady among other minority groups (from 65% to 68%) and among whites (from 78% to 72%),” the poll notes.
On whether the country was headed in the right direction, 21% agreed while 74% believe it’s on the wrong track, according to the poll.
The Monmouth University poll surveyed 807 adults in the United States via telephone between May 28 to June 1.
“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 independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Additional surveys conducted recently reflect similar findings to those from the Monmouth University poll. From May 2019 to May 2020, YouGov, a British internet-based market research organization, asked over 41,000 American adults questions regarding the usage of police force. Out of all U.S. adults who responded, 53% believed that the police used far too much or a bit too much force.
For white Americans, the majority of those who responded to the YouGov survey, 46% indicated that that police officers use far too much or a bit too much force. For black Americans that responded, 80% believed that the police used far too much or a bit too much force.
Historic criticism and controversy over police use of force has compounded over the past weeks with the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man. Floyd passed away after Derek Chauvin, then a Minneapolis police officer who now faces murder charges, knelt on his neck for an extended period of time.
The death of Floyd has sparked protests throughout the United States and across the world, with residents and citizens taking to the streets in demonstrations that have ranged from peaceful to violent. State and local leaders have implemented curfews in efforts to curb potential damage and destruction, with many requesting troops from the National Guard. There are also fears that the congregation of protesters in major cities can exacerbate the still ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
President Donald Trump has criticized the actions of protesters and previously hinted at using the Insurrection Act to send military troops across the country, a move that has been criticized by military leaders, including U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper. On Wednesday, former President Barack Obama spoke on the need for reform with local police forces and government in order to bring effective change.