I don’t think for a moment that this is going to matter to anyone in the Black Lives Matter movement, much less to anyone using the nightly protests as an excuse to attack police for their own reasons. Still, it’s worth pointing out that the majority of black Americans say they don’t want a decrease in the number of police in their neighborhood:
When asked whether they want the police to spend more time, the same amount of time or less time than they currently do in their area, most Black Americans — 61% — want the police presence to remain the same. This is similar to the 67% of all U.S. adults preferring the status quo, including 71% of White Americans.
Meanwhile, nearly equal proportions of Black Americans say they would like the police to spend more time in their area (20%) as say they’d like them to spend less time there (19%).
Gallup’s poll did find a clear difference in the confidence black Americans have about how respectfully they will be treated by police. This chart sums up the differences among various racial categories. So, for instance, 12 percent of black Americans are not confident they’ll be treated respectfully by police whereas for white Americans the same figure is 2 percent.
Significantly, that 12 percent of black Americans who are not confident about being treated respectfully is the only segment of the population for which a majority want to see fewer police in their neighborhoods. Every other segment, even those described as “Not too confident” have a majority who favor current policing levels.
According to Gallup, having more interactions with the police doesn’t make much of a difference in people’s attitudes. Black Americans who’ve interacted with police in the past year are only slightly less likely to favor current policing levels (79% compared to 82% of those with no recent police interaction). What does seem to matter a great deal is negative experiences with the police:
- Forty-five percent of Black Americans who report not being treated with courtesy or respect by the police within the past 12 months want less of a police presence in their neighborhood. Meanwhile, 55% want the same or more police presence.
- By contrast, just 13% of those who did feel they were treated respectfully want the police to spend less time in their neighborhood; 87% want them there as much or more often.
It makes sense. If you feel the police were rude to you personally, you’re more likely to want to see them less.
The bottom line, according to Gallup, is that this new polling data lines up with previous polling that found 22 percent of black Americans would support abolishing the police entirely. This survey seems to suggest that support is largely driven by negative experiences with police. I’m curious about the role of the media in amplifying those negative experiences but this survey doesn’t say anything about that.
For me the bottom line is that the anti-police extremism that has been dominating headlines for months is really a minority proposition even within the black community. Most black Americans support the police and support current staffing levels. It would be great if the coverage would mention that occasionally because that’s not the impression you get watching the news right now.