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Protestors’ Anger Justified Even If Actions May Not Be

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Most say police more likely to use excessive force on black individuals

West Long Branch, NJ – Most Americans say the anger about black deaths at the hands of police officers that led to recent protests is fully justified, even if they do not feel the same about the actual actions. A majority of the public now agrees that the police are more likely to use excessive force with a black person than a white person in similar situations. Only one-third of the country held this opinion four years ago. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll also finds that the number of people who consider racial and ethnic discrimination to be a big problem has increased from about half in 2015 to nearly 3 in 4 now. In other results, President Donald Trump’s job rating has ticked down again as opinion that the country is headed down the wrong track surpasses 70% for the first time in Monmouth’s polling.

A majority of Americans (57%) say that police officers facing a difficult or dangerous situation are more likely to use excessive force if the culprit is black, compared to one-third (33%) who say the police are just as likely to use excessive force against black and white culprits in the same type of situation. The current findings represent a marked change in public opinion from prior polls. In a poll of registered voters taken after the police shooting of Alton Sterling in Louisiana in July 2016, just 34% said blacks were more likely to be subject to excessive force while 52% said they were just as likely as whites. In December 2014, after a grand jury declined to indict a New York City police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, the results were 33% more likely and 58% just as likely.

Nearly all black Americans (87%) feel that individuals of their race are more likely than whites to experience excessive force. This is up slightly from 77% in a 2016 poll, but the overall shift in public opinion on this question is due mainly to an increase among other racial groups. Currently, 49% of white Americans say that police are more likely to use excessive force against a black culprit, which is nearly double the number (25%) who said the same in 2016. Another 39% of whites say police are just as likely to use excessive force regardless of race, which is down significantly from 62% four years ago. Among Americans of Latino, Asian and other minority backgrounds, 63% say black individuals are more likely to be subject to excessive force by police, which is up from 39% in 2016. Just 27% of this group say police are as likely to use excessive force in a situation with a white or black person, which is down from 43% in 2016.

“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.

Only 17% of the public says that the actions of protestors, including the burning of a police precinct, sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police are fully justified, but another 37% say they are partially justified. On the other hand, 38% say these actions are not at all justified. At the same time, a majority of the American public (57%) says that the anger that led to these protests is fully justified. Another 21% say it is partially justified and only 18% say it is not at all justified.

Majorities of black (69%), other minority (58%) and white (55%) Americans say that the protestors’ anger is fully justified, but there is some disagreement on the actual actions taken. While there are minor differences in the percentage who say that the actions of these protestors are fully justified (27% black, 17% other minority, 15% white), white Americans (45%) are much more likely than black Americans (21%) and Americans of other minority groups (30%) to say they are not at all justified.

The Monmouth University Poll also finds that 28% of adults report they or an immediate family member has experienced harassment by the police, including 44% of blacks, 28% of other minorities, and 24% of whites. On the other side of the coin, 31% say that they or a family member has had an experience where a police officer helped keep them safe in a potentially dangerous situation, including 41% of blacks, 21% of other minorities, and 33% of whites. These findings are similar to a Monmouth poll conducted in April 2015.

Most Americans say they are either very satisfied (41%) or somewhat satisfied (30%) with their local police departments, while just 15% are dissatisfied and 13% have no opinion either way. Overall satisfaction with local police stands at about 7 in 10 among all racial groups, although the number who are very satisfied varies from just 21% of blacks to 42% of other minority groups and 45% of whites. 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%).

“White and black Americans have consistently reported different personal experiences with the police. But it has only been within the last few years that more whites seem to link this to deeper racial inequities in the country,” said Murray.

The poll finds that 76% of Americans now say that racial and ethnic discrimination is a big problem in the United States, while 16% say it is a lesser problem and just 7% say it is not a problem.  The number who say discrimination is a big problem has increased from 51% in January 2015 and 68% in July 2016. Large majorities of Americans who are black (90%), from other minority groups (81%), and white (71%) say racial and ethnic discrimination is a big problem.

Just over half (53%) of the public feels that race relations have worsened since Trump became president. Only 10% say they have gotten better and 33% say there has been no change. These results, though, are similar to opinion during Barack Obama’s time in office. In 2016, 53% said race relations had worsened during Obama’s term, 10% said they had gotten better and 33% said there was no change. The similarity in these topline results masks some contradictory shifts underneath the numbers. In the current poll, blacks (75%) and other minorities (65%) are more likely than whites (45%) to say that race relations have gotten worse during Trump’s presidency. Four years ago, whites (59%) were more likely than blacks (37%) and other minorities (38%) to say that race relations had worsened in the Obama years.

In other poll findings, the incumbent president’s overall job rating continues on a downward trend since hitting a high point three months ago. Trump’s performance now earns a 42% approve and 54% disapprove rating from the American public. He held a 43% to 51% rating in May, a 44% to 49% rating in April, and a 46% to 48% rating in March. His February rating, before the coronavirus pandemic spread, was 44% to 50%.

The overall job rating for Congress stands at 22% approve and 69% disapprove. This is a notable drop from the legislative branch’s already negative ratings in recent Monmouth polling (32% to 55% in both April and May) and marks a return to its pre-Covid standing (20% to 69% in February).

Currently, 21% of the public says the country is headed in the right direction while 74% says it is on the wrong track. This result is more negative than it has been in Monmouth polling going back to 2013. This metric stood at 33% to 60% in May and hit 39% to 54% back in March. The last time the right direction/wrong track metric approached its current low level was December 2017 when it stood at 24% to 66%, with the prior low in Monmouth’s seven-year trend being 23% to 69% in December 2014. The biggest drop in the past month has come among Republicans, from 64% right direction and 28% wrong track in May to 45% right direction and 46% wrong track now. It has also declined among independents (29% to 63% in May and 17% to 78% now) and Democrats (13% to 83% in May and 4% to 92% now). It has dropped about equally among whites, blacks, and other minority groups.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from May 28 to June 1, 2020 with 807 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president?

  TREND:June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
Jan.
2020
Dec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2019
June
2019
May
2019
April 2019March 2019Jan.
2019
Approve42%43%44%46%44%43%43%43%41%40%41%40%40%44%41%
Disapprove54%51%49%48%50%52%50%51%53%53%50%52%54%51%54%
(VOL) No opinion4%6%6%6%5%5%8%6%6%7%9%8%6%5%5%
 (n)(807)(808)(857)(851)(902)(903)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)(805)
  TREND: ContinuedNov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Dec.
2017
Sept.
2017
Aug.
2017
July
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Approve43%43%43%41%39%42%32%40%41%39%39%43%
Disapprove49%50%46%50%54%50%56%49%49%52%53%46%
(VOL) No opinion8%7%11%9%8%8%12%11%10%9%8%11%
 (n)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)(806)(1,009)(805)(800)(1,002)(801)

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the job the U.S. Congress is doing?

  TREND:June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
Feb.
2020
Jan.
2020
Dec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2019
June
2019
May
2019
April
2019
March
2019
Jan.
2019
Approve22%32%32%20%24%22%23%21%17%19%20%24%23%18%
Disapprove69%55%55%69%62%65%64%68%71%69%71%62%68%72%
(VOL) No opinion9%13%13%11%14%13%13%11%13%12%9%14%9%10%
 (n)(807)(808)(857)(902)(903)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)(805)
  TREND: ContinuedNov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Dec.
2017
Sept.
2017
Aug.
2017
July
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Approve23%17%19%17%18%21%16%17%18%19%19%25%23%
Disapprove63%69%67%71%72%68%65%69%69%70%68%59%66%
(VOL) No opinion14%14%14%12%11%11%19%15%13%11%13%16%11%
 (n)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)(806)(1,009)(805)(800)(1,002)(801)(801)
  TREND: ContinuedSept.
2016*
Aug.
2016*
June
2016*
March
2016
Jan.
2016
Dec.
2015
Oct.
2015
Sept.
2015
Aug.
2015
July
2015
June
2015
April
2015
Jan.
2015
Dec.
2014
July
2013
Approve15%14%17%22%17%16%17%19%18%18%19%21%18%17%14%
Disapprove77%78%76%68%73%73%71%71%72%69%71%67%70%73%76%
(VOL) No opinion8%9%7%10%10%10%12%11%11%12%10%12%11%11%10%
 (n)(802)(803)(803)(1,008)(1,003)(1,006)(1,012)(1,009)(1,203)(1,001)(1,002)(1,005)(1,003)(1,008)(1,012)

* Registered voters

3. Would you say things in the country are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?

  TREND:June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
Jan.
2020
Dec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2019
June
2019
May
2019
April
2019
March
2019
Right direction21%33%30%39%37%37%32%30%30%28%31%29%28%29%
Wrong track74%60%61%54%57%56%56%61%61%62%62%63%62%63%
(VOL) Depends4%4%5%4%6%6%8%7%6%8%6%4%7%6%
(VOL) Don’t know1%3%5%3%1%1%4%2%2%2%2%3%3%2%
(n)(807)(808)(857)(851)(902)(903)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)
  TREND: ContinuedNov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Dec.
2017
Aug.
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Right direction35%35%40%33%31%37%24%32%31%35%29%
Wrong track55%57%53%58%61%57%66%58%61%56%65%
(VOL) Depends7%6%3%5%6%3%7%4%5%4%4%
(VOL) Don’t know3%3%3%4%1%3%3%5%3%5%2%
(n)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)(806)(805)(1,002)(801)(801)
  TREND: ContinuedAug.
2016*
Oct.
2015
July
2015
June
2015
April
2015
Dec.
2014
July
2013
Right direction30%24%28%23%27%23%28%
Wrong track65%66%63%68%66%69%63%
(VOL) Depends2%6%5%5%5%5%5%
(VOL) Don’t know3%4%3%3%2%3%4%
(n)(803)(1,012)(1,001)(1,002)(1,005)(1,008)(1,012)

      * Registered voters

[Q4-39 held for future release.]

[NOTE: QUESTIONS B1-B7B WERE ONLY ASKED 5/29-6/1; n=759, m.o.e= +/-3.6%]

B1. How satisfied are you with the job your local police department does – very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, or very dissatisfied?

    TREND:June
2020
April
2015
Very satisfied41%40%
Somewhat satisfied30%32%
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied13%10%
Somewhat dissatisfied10%9%
Very dissatisfied5%9%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%
(n)(759)(1,005)

[QUESTIONS B2 & B3 WERE ROTATED]

B2. Have you or an immediate family member ever felt that you were being harassed by the police, or has this not happened?

    TREND:June
2020
April
2015
Yes, has happened28%26%
No, has not happened72%74%
(VOL) Don’t know0%0%
(n)(759)(1,005)

B3. Have you or an immediate family member ever had an experience where a police officer helped keep you safe in a potentially dangerous situation, or has this not happened?

    TREND:June
2020
April
2015
Yes, has happened31%32%
No, has not happened69%68%
(VOL) Don’t know0%0%
(n)(759)(1,005)

B4. Do you think that racial and ethnic discrimination in the United States is a problem or not a problem? [If PROBLEM: Is it a big problem or a small problem?]

    TREND:June
2020
July
2016*
Jan.
2015
Yes, big problem76%68%51%
Yes, small problem12%12%21%
Yes, but not sure if big or small4%7%9%
No, not a problem7%10%18%
(VOL) Don’t know0%3%1%
(n)(759)(805)(1,003)

        *Registered voters

B5. Have race relations in the United States become better or worse since Donald Trump became president, or has there been no change?

      COMPARISON:
Barack Obama
 June
2020
  July
2016*
Jan.
2015
Better10%  10%15%
Worse53%  53%43%
No change33%  33%40%
(VOL) Don’t know4%  4%2%
(n)(759)  (805)(1,003)

        *Registered voters

B6. When faced with a difficult or dangerous situation, are police officers more likely to use excessive force if the culprit is black, or are they just as likely to use excessive force against black and white culprits given the same type of situation?

    TREND:June
2020
July
2016*
Dec.
2014
More likely57%34%33%
Just as likely33%52%58%
(VOL) Police do not use excessive force1%2%1%
(VOL) Don’t know9%12%8%
(n)(759)(805)(1,008)

          *Registered voters

B7. Have you heard about the protests across the country, including the burning of a police precinct in Minneapolis, in reaction to a recent incident where a black man died when a police officer kneeled on his neck, or have you not heard about this?

 June
2020
Yes, have heard 97%
No, have not heard 3%
(n)(759)

B7A. Given what happened, do you think the actions of the protestors were fully justified, partially justified, or not at all justified?

 June
2020
Fully justified17%
Partially justified37%
Not at all justified38%
(VOL) Depends on which protests4%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
Not aware (from B7)3%
(n)(759)

B7B. Regardless of the actual actions taken, do you think the anger that led to these protests was fully justified, partially justified, or not at all justified?

 June
2020
Fully justified57%
Partially justified21%
Not at all justified18%
(VOL) Depends on which protests1%
(VOL) Don’t know0%
Not aware (from B7)3%
(n)(759)

[B8-B10 & Q40-57 held for future release.]

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from May 28 to June 1, 2020 with a national random sample of 807 adults age 18 and older. This includes 279 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 528 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2018 one-year survey). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Dynata (RDD sample). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
Self-Reported
27% Republican
41% Independent
31% Democrat
 
49% Male
51% Female
 
30% 18-34
33% 35-54
36% 55+
 
64% White
12% Black
16% Hispanic
  8% Asian/Other
 
69% No degree
31% 4 year degree
  

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs