Poll Reveals Pessimism about Racial Equality in Policing


By Isabelle Brady

CHICAGO, IL – A recent poll conducted by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago reveals broad pessimism, particularly on behalf of Black Americans, regarding progress in equal treatment for Black people by the police and the criminal justice system.

According to the poll, some Americans—white, but not people of color—believe there has been significant progress in the past 50 years in achieving equal treatment and a majority of respondents across racial and ethnic groups say that more progress is necessary.

Here are the highlights of the poll, as reported in PBS Newshour:

About a quarter of Americans believe there has been “a great deal” or “a lot” of progress in achieving racial equality with regard to policing and criminal justice. Approximately another third say that there has been “some” progress.

But the vast majority say that more progress for racial equality is necessary, including roughly half who call for “a lot” more progress.

Of the respondents who say that more progress is necessary in achieving racial equality for Black Americans in policing, 31 percent are optimistic and 38 percent are pessimistic about that happening in the next few years. About a third say they are neither optimistic nor pessimistic.

Of the Black Americans who think that more progress is necessary, only 20 percent are optimistic and 49 percent are pessimistic.

Similarly, although at least three-quarters of white and Black Americans say that more progress is necessary, 70 percent of Black Americans say that “a lot” more progress is necessary while 47 percent of white Americans say so.

The racial disparity between respondents persisted with 30 percent of white Americans saying there has already been significant progress toward racial equality in policing compared to only 10 percent of Black Americans.

In fact, 40 percent of Black Americans say that there has been no progress in the past 50 years at all.

These opinions may have consequences on American politics. As some criminal justice advocates have raised concern, unless definitive progress is made toward transforming the police and criminal justice system, disillusioned Black Americans may not turn out at the polls.

President Biden may have validated that concern during his State of the Union address when, in an apparent rebuke of some Black Lives Matter messaging, he said that the answer to reported rises in violent crime “is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.”

As of right now, the closest federal action to a definitive transformation of the police and criminal justice system is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. It contains a ban on chokeholds at a federal level and certain no-knock warrants, particularly in drug cases.

Under the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, police officers could be charged with criminal offenses for reckless behavior and would lose immunity from lawsuits alleging unconstitutional actions.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has passed the House of Representatives but hasn’t yet come up for vote in the Senate, which will determine if it becomes a law and makes progress in better treatment of Black Americans by police the way that many reformers want.


About The Author

Isabelle is a first year undergraduate student at UC Santa Barbara majoring in philosophy. Her passions include writing, criminal justice reform and reading Kurt Vonnegut. She may or may not eventually attend law school.

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