Confidence in Police at 22-Year Low

confidence in policeA new Gallup poll says 52% of Americans say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police. While that is a majority, the percentage is the lowest it’s been since 1993, a year after four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted in state court in the beating of Rodney King. (The high was in 2004 at 64%.)

Democrats’ confidence in police dropped 13 percentage points over the last two years compared with 2012-2013, a larger change than for any other subgroup. Over the same period, independents’ and Republicans’ confidence in police has not changed. As a result, Democrats (42%) now have less confidence in police than independents (51%) and remain much less confident than Republicans (69%).

The analysis of a combination of two years’ data is necessary to get more stable estimates on smaller subgroups, particularly blacks. Over the last two years, blacks’ confidence in police has averaged 30%, well below the national average of 53% and much lower than for any other subgroup. Blacks’ confidence is down six points from 2012-2013, similar to the four-point drop among all Americans.

One reason blacks’ confidence has not changed disproportionately over the last two years is that their confidence in the police was already low, and the recent events appear not to have fundamentally changed their already negative views of the police.

The recent news stories of unspeakable violence perpetrated by police officers should have us all thinking about how to take action. This is a dynamic we must work to change, because we all suffer when Americans find the police untrustworthy—crimes go unreported, victims of abuse are less likely to get help, community cohesion erodes. If you live in a community that is working to hold its police force accountable and improve community-police relations, we encourage you to get involved.

We recommend you check out this discussion guide, “Protecting Communities, Serving the Public” from Everyday Democracy.

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