Blacks give police lower marks than whites, poll shows

Black Americans and white Americans hold sharply different views of police conduct when it comes to issues of race, force and accountability, according to a new Pew Research Center/USA Today survey released Monday.


On all three fronts, the public as a whole is skeptical about police performance. But blacks are much more skeptical than whites.

Just 10 percent of blacks say police forces do an "excellent" or "good" job holding officers who have engaged in misconduct accountable for their actions. A far greater share of whites, 37 percent, say the same thing. Clear majorities of both racial groups say police forces do only a fair or a poor job.

When it comes to the way the police treat different ethnic groups, we once again see a divide. Thirty-eight percent of whites say police forces do a "good" or "excellent" job. Just 10 percent of blacks say the same thing.

The split is even wider on the question of whether officers use appropriate force. Just 6 percent of blacks say police forces do a "good" job using the right amount of force for each situation and zero percent of blacks say they do an "excellent" job. Forty-one percent of whites rate police performance as "excellent" or "good" on this front.

The poll was conducted Aug. 20-24. That's about two weeks after a white police officer fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., sparking clashes between protesters and police and a national conversation on the issues tested by Pew.

The survey also shows that blacks' confidence in their local police applying equal treatment across racial lines has eroded in recent years.

Nearly half of blacks — 46 percent — have “very little” confidence in local police to treat blacks and whites equally, up from 34 percent in 2009 and 31 percent in 2007.

The percentage of whites saying the same thing has held steadier. Twelve percent now have "very little" confidence. That number was 9 percent in 2009 and 10 percent in 2007.

Scott Clement contributed to this post

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read Politics



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Next Story
Katie Zezima · August 25, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.