Concerns about crime, as most say police do not treat everyone the same

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  • In an exclusive poll, only 1 in 5 Americans said the police treat all Americans the same.
  • Skepticism about the fairness of the criminal justice system has crossed racial and partisan lines.
  • Americans trusted Biden more than former President Donald Trump, 42% to 37%, to fight crime.

Concerns about crime and gun violence have become the priority issues that worry Americans, according to a new USA TODAY / Ipsos poll, but attitudes about how to respond reflect the repercussions of the national debate on racial justice.

Almost two-thirds of those polled said violent crime has worsened in the United States in the past year, and nearly a third have seen it increase in their communities. Although they expressed confidence in their local police, the classic call to get tough on crime was tempered by broad concerns about law enforcement tactics and the equality of the criminal justice system.

“The country has always used that phrase ‘tough on crime’ and, if anything, things got worse,” said Kathy Kelly, 67, a health care consultant from Glendale, Ariz., During a follow-up interview after being called. the poll. “I don’t know if we can be tougher on crime. I think we need to be more picky about what we go through.”

In the survey, 7 in 10 supported increasing police budgets; 77% said they would like more police to be deployed on street patrols. But 62% also said part of police budgets should be used to fund community policing and social services. And 81% approved a mandate that shootings involving police should be investigated by a separate and independent authority.

More than a year after George Floyd was murdered on a Minneapolis street by a then-policeman who knelt on his neck, a video of this and other instances of police misconduct towards Black Americans have sparked protests and a nationwide reckoning on race.

Today, only 1 in 5 Americans, 22%, said the police treat all Americans the same. Even fewer, 17%, said criminal courts and lawyers treated everyone equally.

This is a double-digit drop in public trust since a USA TODAY / Pew Research Center poll in 2014, when 32% of Americans said law enforcement did a great or a good job dealing with racial and ethnic groups equally.

“Strong majorities support increased funding for police to fight crime, making it clear that America is still a country of law and order,” said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos Public Affairs. “However, this Ipsos / USA TODAY poll shows that most Americans recognize racial inequalities in law enforcement, suggesting that many Americans want justice in addition to safety.”

The survey of 1,201 adults, conducted online from June 29 to July 6 using Ipsos’ probability-based KnowledgePanel, has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points for the full sample.

Concerns about racism transcend partisan lines

Skepticism about the fairness of the criminal justice system has crossed racial and partisan lines.

Among whites, 54% said the police do not treat all Americans the same; 63% said the criminal justice system does not treat everyone equally. Majorities were larger among Black Americans at 77% and 72%.

Even Republicans, who expressed more faith in law enforcement, were inclined to say the criminal justice system does not treat everyone the same, 47% to 31%. Among Democrats this was the view of almost 9 to 1 (78% to 9%) and among independents more than 4 to 1 (64 to 15%).

“Tim Scott is a senator from here,” said Marcia Clark, 67, a retired and politically independent airline worker from Bluffton, SC. ​​“In one year he has been arrested seven times by police, and one time he got a ticket for turning his direction (indicator) but it wasn’t fast enough. So there must be something to do with the race, because I know Lindsey Graham doesn’t stop, and they arrest Tim Scott, don’t they? “

Graham, one of the senators from South Carolina, is white. Scott, the state’s other US senator, is black and the leading Republican in bipartisan negotiations on a criminal justice bill.

After:‘I bring balance’: Tim Scott stands out as he tries to negotiate police reform for Republicans

Crime has again begun to disturb U.S. policy as murder rates have risen – up 24% from last year – and the threat of COVID-19 has diminished. In the poll, crime topped a list of 16 potential problems. The coronavirus pandemic has fallen to No.7, on par with racial injustice and discrimination. (They tracked political extremism, climate change, healthcare, government budget and debt, and immigration.)

Last month, President Joe Biden announced a crime prevention strategy targeting gun dealers and the illegal sale of guns. But Republicans blamed the increase in crime on calls by progressive activists to cut funding for law enforcement, highlighting the slogan “define the police.”

“The fundraising message that went out was really, really bad,” said Ron Johnston, 73, an independent from the Toledo suburb of Ottawa Hills, Ohio. “Over the summer I’ve seen all these riots and seen people doing things and not getting arrested – and when they’re arrested, they’re released on bail and they’re fired. really bother. “

He added: “‘Defund’ is the biggest prank I have ever heard. ‘How can we improve? We have to take your protection away from you.'”

In the poll, the movement known as “defund the police” received little support. Only 22% approved the idea. Black Americans opposed 60% to 38%, Democrats 63% to 37%.

Regardless of the party, about 4 in 10 people said just talking about the idea hurt Democratic candidates in last November’s election.

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Who do you trust to fight crime?

Crime and public safety is the issue on which the Republican Party now has its greatest advantage. From 32% to 24%, those polled said the GOP was better at dealing with crime. Democrats were preferred in the management of health care, education and gun violence. The parties were more or less equal in the management of employment and job creation.

That said, Americans trusted Biden more than former President Donald Trump, 42% to 37%, to fight crime.

When asked to choose between two statements, 45% agreed with this: “We should shift some of the funding to social services, get guns off the streets and demilitarize the police.” This was the Democrats’ view by more than 6 to 1.

In contrast, 37% agreed with the alternative: “We should spend more on the police and let the police do their job as they see fit. This was the Republicans’ view by more than 6 to 1.

President Joe Biden has announced a crime prevention strategy that targets gun dealers and the illegal sale of guns.

What specific strategies have most Americans supported?

The message was mixed, probably a reflection of conflicting impulses and priorities. An overwhelming majority of 9 in 10 approved training police officers to defuse difficult situations and prevent violence. But nearly 6 in 10 also supported military or SWAT-style training for all police officers.

Some approaches that have gained popularity in previous crime-fighting campaigns do not currently enjoy majority support. Mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug convictions were supported by 48%. Only 36% approved of the “stop and frisk” policy, the policy that gives police wide leeway to arrest people without cause and search them for weapons or drugs.

“We have to completely rethink the way we train police, from the start,” said Craig Blek, 58, professor of economics at Imperial Valley College in Calif., Who is a registered Republican. “Everyone thinks you can just overhaul the policing system tomorrow, and you can’t. It’s going to take 20 years of recruiting and training to fix the problem. But we have to get it started.”


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