Gallup Survey Shows Most Black Americans Prefer Current Police Presence But Want Better Quality Policing

A recent Gallup Panel survey reveals that a majority of Black Americans prefer that police spend the same amount of time in their area that they are currently spending, but that quality of police interactions matters. The June 23, 2020 – July 6, 2020 survey included the opinions of over 36,000 people in the United States, with large samples of Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans to ensure correct proportions to the United States population.

Police Presence

When asked whether they would prefer the police spend more time, the same amount of time, or less time in their area, 61% of Black Americans preferred the police spend the same amount of time in their area. In fact, all racial/ethnic groups were similar, with 71% of White Americans, 59% of Hispanic Americans, and 63% of Asian Americans preferring that police retain their current presence. Among the 39% of Black Americans whom did not prefer police presence retention, 20% preferred more police presence and 19% preferred less police presence. Asian Americans were the least supportive of police presence retention out of all racial/ethnic groups surveyed, with 28% preferring less police presence.

The survey additionally asked participants how often they see police in their neighborhoods. Nationally, 41% of US adults sometimes see the police in their neighborhood, 24% see the police in their neighborhood often or very often, and 35% of US Adults rarely or never see the police in their neighborhood. This being said, there is not much difference among racial/ethnic groups in regard to exposure to police. 41% of Black Americans, 42% of White Americans, 37% of Hispanic Americans, and 47% of Asian Americans sometimes see the police in their neighborhood. Out of all racial/ethnic groups, Black Americans claim to see the police the most, with 32% reporting they see the police in their neighborhood often or very often. However, the majority (66%) of Black Americans who report they often see the police in their neighborhood think that police should increase presence or retain their presence as normal, whereas 34% think police should spend less time in their area.

Police Quality

While the preference of presence and frequency have little significance across racial/ethnic boundaries, the quality of police treatment varies greatly among racial/ethnic groups. Only 18% of Black Americans feel very confident that they would be treated with courtesy and respect by police, a belief shared by 56% of White Americans, 40% of Hispanic Americans, and 24% of Asian Americans. Factoring in those who are at least somewhat confident they would be treated with courtesy and respect by police, 61% of Black Americans feel generally confident. While this figure is the majority opinion of Black Americans, it is remarkably different from the national average (84%) and general confidence of White Americans (91%).

59% of Black Americans who are not at all confident police will treat them with courtesy and respect (representing 12% of the Black American population) would prefer that police spend less time in their area. However, among the Black Americans who feel not too confident, somewhat confident, and very confident that police will treat them with courtesy and respect, the majority still prefer that police spend the same amount of time in their area.

In regards to the frequency of interaction with police, 79% of Black Americans who had interactions with police in the past year preferred police spending the same or a greater amount of time in their area, with 21% of Black Americans favoring less time. However, 45% of Black Americans who reported not being treated with courtesy and respect by police in the past year preferred less police presence.

Key Takeaways

  • For the most part, a majority of Black Americans do not have a problem with the quantity of interactions with police; it is the quality of interactions that make the difference.
  • This research indicates that most Black Americans value the need for the service that police provide. However, compared to White and Hispanic Americans, Black Americans have more apprehension over having police in their areas because police encounters are not always courteous and respectful. The greater the discourteous and disrespectful incidents by police, the greater Black Americans’ desire to restrict police presence.
  • These results allow us to think differently about the disparity between Black Americans and police, most recently seen in the nationwide protests after the death of George Floyd. Data from this same study, not included in this article due to longevity, shows that the majority (58%) of Americans believe that policing needs major reform. Based on this study, police departments may be able to make changes that help the police protect the community while establishing and ensuring quality interactions with all members.