These findings underscore the mixed fallout after the brutal killing of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police in May. There is increased public scrutiny of police treatment of black Americans, but less unity on broader questions about how to address the country’s treatment of black Americans since its founding.
Stark divisions exist between different racial groups and among varied political identities, not surprisingly given the high profile that President Trump has taken in fanning opposition to Black Lives Matter protesters and their desired changes.
Americans’ confidence in police appears shaken after a wave of national protests following Floyd’s killing. Compared with 2014, fewer Americans say they are confident that police are adequately trained to avoid using excessive force. Meanwhile, more people say recent police killings of black people are “a sign of broader problems” in police conduct.
The share of Americans saying that black people and other minorities do not receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system has risen by 15 percentage points from 2014 — and this year marks the first time a majority of whites has held this view.
When compared with 2014, around the time of the killings of African Americans Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York, larger shares of virtually every demographic group and every age group now say that minorities do not receive treatment equal to white people in the criminal justice system.
Today, that view is held by 62 percent of white people, up 18 points from 2014. Among black people, 97 percent now assert there is unequal treatment of minorities, up from 89 percent in 2014. Over two-thirds, 68 percent of Hispanic people, say the same, roughly similar to 2014.
The share of white Democrats who say black people and other minorities do not receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system rose 19 points to 89 percent, while white independents jumped 24 points to 65 percent. White Republicans inched up seven points to 36 percent.
More than half of adults, 55 percent, say that recent killings of unarmed black people are “a sign of broader problems in the treatment of black people by police,” an increase from 43 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, 40 percent say they are isolated incidents.
But that 55 percent majority is lower than it was a month ago, when a Post-Schar School poll found 69 percent of Americans — asked specifically about Floyd’s killing — said that episode was a sign of broader problems in the treatment of black people by police. The change has been sharply partisan.
In 2014, about two-thirds of Democrats along with roughly 4 in 10 independents said deaths were the result of broader, not isolated, problems. Just under 2 in 10 Republicans agreed. Last month, soon after Floyd’s killing, concerns about broader police mistreatment rose by more than 20 points among each partisan group from six years ago — including almost to half of Republicans.
Today, attitudes among Democrats are close to where they were last month, and while the percentages among independents have slipped, a majority of them continues to share this view. But concerns among Republicans have dropped 26 points since June and are now much closer to the roughly 2 in 10 level where they were in 2014.
Overall, the Post-ABC poll finds that a slim majority, 52 percent, say that they are “not so confident” or “not confident at all” that police in the United States treat white and black people equally. That’s up from 46 percent who said the same in 2014, if a smaller percentage than those critical of how the criminal justice system overall treats minorities. Similarly, 52 percent of Americans say they are not confident that police are adequately trained to avoid the use of excessive force, up from 44 percent in 2014.
With Democrats growing more critical of police since 2014 and Republicans returning to their high confidence in law enforcement, the partisan split in views of how police treat black people has expanded. Republicans are now 60 points more likely than Democrats to have confidence that police treat white and black people equally (80 percent vs. 20 percent), compared with a 43-point gap in 2014 (77 percent vs. 34 percent).
Apart from the police, most Americans say that black people face discrimination in their own communities. A 52 percent majority of white and Hispanic Americans — excluding those who say nobody in their community is black — say that there is general discrimination against black people. Just under 2 in 10 white people and over a quarter of Hispanic people say it happens “often.”
At the same time, almost 8 in 10 black Americans say black people experience racial discrimination in their communities, including half who say it happens “often.” People who say there are many black people living in their community are more likely to say black people there face discrimination.
The Black Lives Matter movement continues to enjoy majority support, with 63 percent of Americans saying they support it, including 46 percent who say they “strongly” support it. But there are sharp differences among partisans, with 92 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents saying they back the movement, while 68 percent of Republicans oppose it.
Among white people, 54 percent say they support Black Lives Matter, compared with 74 percent of Hispanic people and more than 9 in 10 black people, of whom 82 percent “strongly” support it.
A recent Pew Research Center poll found clear majorities of the public supporting several changes called for by protesters who have registered their anger in recent months, including mandatory police training to avoid using deadly force and making it a crime for police to use chokeholds or strangleholds.
Yet the Post-ABC poll finds far less support for some other high-profile proposals that have been in the forefront of public debate recently. On the issue of police funding, for example, 55 percent of Americans oppose moving funds from police departments to social services — and 43 percent say they oppose it “strongly.”
Republicans are the most opposed, with 84 percent saying they’re against such a shift. Among independents, 53 percent are opposed, while 59 percent of Democrats support such shifts.
On this issue, there is a sizable generation gap. Over half of Americans under age 40 support a funding shift, while less than a third of Americans 40 and older are in favor of moving funding from police to social services.
There’s even wider opposition to the government paying black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved, with 63 percent saying the government should not pay reparations. Currently, 31 percent favor reparations, up from 19 percent in a 1999 ABC News poll.
But those figures, too, differ by race and political orientation. Today, more than 8 in 10 black people say the federal government should pay reparations while three-quarters of white people say the government should not. Among Hispanic people, 56 percent say reparations should not be paid, while 42 percent say they should.
Current opposition to paying reparations is highest among Republicans, 93 percent of whom oppose making payments to descendants of enslaved people, along with 67 percent of independents.
A narrow 53 percent majority of Democrats say reparations should be paid to ancestors of enslaved people, although there is a sharp racial divide within the party. While 86 percent of black Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents support paying reparations to black descendants, that falls to 35 percent among white Democrats and Democratic leaners.
In recent years, states and cities throughout the country have examined removing monuments to Confederate Civil War generals, and in the past two months, protesters have toppled scores of statues. Separately, Congress is considering a bill to rename military bases named for Confederate leaders.
The new poll finds that 52 percent of Americans oppose removing public statues honoring Confederate generals, while 43 percent support their removal. That includes an 80 percent majority of Republicans and 56 percent of independents in opposition, while 74 percent of Democrats support the removal of these statutes.
Almost 6 in 10 white people, along with just over half of Hispanic people, oppose removing statues of Confederate soldiers, while over three-quarters of black people support their removal.
Opposition is even greater to the removal of public statues honoring former U.S. presidents who enslaved people, with 68 percent of Americans opposed and 25 percent in support of their removal. But while at least 7 in 10 white and Hispanic people are opposed, 6 in 10 black Americans support removing these statues.
Half of Americans oppose renaming military bases currently named after Confederate generals, while 42 percent support the changes. Once again there is a significant partisan split, with 81 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents opposed and 66 percent of Democrats in favor. A majority of Americans ages 50 and older are opposed to any renaming, while a plurality of those under 50 support the change.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted July 12-15 among a random national sample of 1,006 adults, with 75 percent of interviews conducted by cellphone and the remaining 25 percent by landline. The margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; the error margin is 4.5 points among the sample of 661 white adults and 10.5 points each among the samples of 113 black and 117 Hispanic adults.