A majority of Americans say that police officers facing a dangerous situation are more likely to use excessive force if the suspect they’re facing is black, according to a new national poll.
And that percentage has surged over the past six years, according to a survey released Tuesday by Monmouth University.
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The poll also indicates that the number of people who consider racial and ethnic discrimination to be a major problem has soared in recent years.
Fifty-seven percent of those questioned in the survey say that police officers facing a difficult situation are more likely to use excessive force against a black person, with a third saying that officers are just as likely to use excessive force against black or white culprits in the same type of situation.
The poll was conducted Thursday through Monday, amid both peaceful protests and violent clashes and rioting in cities across the country sparked by the death last week of George Floyd. Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer put his knee to the handcuffed Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
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The 57 percent saying police are more likely to use excessive force against a black suspect has nearly doubled from 33 percent in December 2014, after a grand jury declined to indict a white New York City police officer in the chokehold death of black man Eric Garner.
According to the poll, 87 percent of African Americans, 63 percent of Americans of Latino, Asian and other minority backgrounds, and 49 percent of whites say that police are more likely to use excessive force against blacks.
Only 17 percent of Americans say that the actions by some of the protesters – including the burning of police precinct in Minneapolis – are fully justified, with another 37 percent saying they’re partially justified. Nearly four in 10 said such actions are not justified at all. But a majority – 57 percent – say that the anger that sparked the protests is fully justified, with another 21 percent saying it’s partially justified.
“It seems we have reached a turning point in public opinion where white Americans are realizing that black Americans face risks when dealing with police that they do not. They may not agree with the violence of recent protests, but many whites say they understand where that anger is coming from,” Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray said.
More than three-quarters of those questioned now say that racial and ethnic discrimination’s a big problem in the U.S. – up from 51 percent in January of 2015 and from 68 percent in July of 2016.
Other findings in the survey: Twenty-eight percent say they or an immediate family member’s experienced harassment by the police – and 41 percent say they’re very satisfied and another 30 percent say they’re somewhat satisfied with their local police departments.
Live telephone operators questioned 807 adults nationwide for the Monmouth University poll. The survey’s sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.