Law Enforcement and Violence: The Divide between Black and White Americans

A recent AP-NORC Center poll illustrates the deep racial divisions in the American public’s views of law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

The difficult relationship between the police and blacks in the United States is evident from the results of a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey. The poll highlights a number of racial divisions in Americans’ attitudes toward law enforcement and the criminal justice system. However, the survey finds agreement across racial groups on many of the causes of police violence. It also reveals a broad consensus among the public that a number of policy changes could reduce tensions between minorities and police and limit violence against civilians.

The nationwide poll was collected July 17 to 19 using the AmeriSpeak Omnibus, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,223 adults, including 311 blacks who were sampled at a higher rate than their proportion of the population for reasons of analysis.

Three Things You Should Know
From The AP-NORC Center’s Poll on Law Enforcement and Violence

  1. Black Americans are nearly four times as likely as whites to describe violence against civilians by police officers as an extremely or very serious problem.
  2. More than 80 percent of blacks say police are too quick to use deadly force and they are more likely to use it against a black person.  Two-thirds of whites label police use of deadly force as necessary and nearly 6 in 10 say race is not a factor in decisions to use force.
  3. There is support among both blacks and whites for many changes in policies and procedures that could be effective in reducing tensions between law enforcement and minorities and limiting police violence against civilians. For example, 71 percent say body cameras on police would be an effective deterrent to police aggression and 52 percent think community policing programs would help reduce the friction in minority communities.