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POLL: 6 in 10 favor doing more to hold police accountable


(NEW YORK) — Confidence that police in the United States are adequately trained to avoid using excessive force reached a new low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, and 60% of Americans say the country should do more to hold police accountable for mistreatment of Black people.

More broadly, 63% say Black people and other minorities do not receive equal treatment as whites in the criminal justice system — off its peak, 69%, last July, but the next highest in polls dating to 1988. That includes a majority of white people for only the second time.

In political terms, 42%, a plurality overall, say President Joe Biden is doing “too little” to try to reform police practices in this country. Thirty-two percent in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, say he’s doing the right amount, while many fewer, 15%, say he’s doing too much.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables.

The survey overlapped the trial and conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd on a Minneapolis street last May. Public concern about police misconduct rose after Floyd’s death and the protests that followed. This survey shows that substantial concerns remain:

  • Just 44% are very or somewhat confident that the police are trained adequately to avoid using excessive force, similar to last summer (47%) and down 10 percentage points from the first time it was asked in late 2014 after a grand jury declined to hand up an indictment in the police killing of Eric Garner.
  • A new question asked if the country should do more to hold police accountable for mistreatment of Black people or, alternatively, is doing too much to interfere in how officers do their job. The result is nearly 2-to-1 for more accountability, 60-33%.
  • The public long has doubted that Black people and other minorities receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system; only once in a dozen polls since 1988 did a majority say this was so. Still, the share who say equal treatment is lacking now exceeds 6 in 10 only for the second time.

On a separate issue concerning treatment of Black people, 65% of Americans oppose reparations, that is, the federal government paying money to Black people whose ancestors were slaves as compensation for that slavery. Support reaches 67% among Black people, dropping to 35% among Hispanics and 18% among whites. A House committee last week recommended creating a commission to study the question.

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