LOWELL — A nationwide poll conducted by the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion found that just over half of Americans believe that policing is not fair in the wake of racial injustice protests, but 73% of Black Americans feel that way, highlighting a large divide between how different races view race relations.
“The center conducted an independent, nonpartisan national survey asking 1,000 respondents about race, discrimination and systemic racism and found from policing, to the economy to the workplace, race divides Americans’ views of many issues,” the university said in a prepared statement announcing the results.
While 51% of Americans overall view policing as unfair, and only 41% said it is fair, the disparity in responses between Black Americans and others was striking.
While the poll found that 15% of all respondents said they were treated poorly by police because of their race, breaking the numbers down by race shows a stark divide.
Black respondents were five times more likely than whites to say they were treated differently by police, with 38% of Blacks saying so and just 7% of whites. Meanwhile, 31% of Hispanic/Latino respondents reported being treated poorly by police because of race.
“This finding is particularly noteworthy,” said Joshua Dyck, director of the Center for Public Opinion and associate professor of political science. “The idea in this country that there is discrimination in law enforcement does not come from the news for many people of color — it comes from personal experiences.”
When asked about police shootings, 44% of respondents said they believe such incidents raise important issues about race that should be discussed, while 43% said they think such shootings get too much attention. But only 14% of Black respondents said they think police shootings get too much attention, while 70% of Black respondents said they raise important issues.
Support for defunding police was almost evenly split, with answers from both all respondents and blacks falling within the poll’s margin of error. Fifty-four percent of respondents said police budgets should be left alone, while 48% of Black respondents said the same.
A large majority also favor local citizen review boards for police that are made up of racially representative community members, with 65% of respondents either favoring the idea or strongly favoring it.
Disparities in views by race were even more apparent when it comes to whether Black Americans are treated equally when looking for a job, and whether they are treated equally when it comes to education.
While 53% of respondents said Blacks often face discrimination while looking for work, 83% of Black Americans said so. Black Americans are also four times more likely than whites to think education is provided unequally, with 41% of white respondents believing education is equal, and only 10% of Black Americans agreeing, according to the poll.
“To me the biggest take-away from this survey is that our data show that whites do not connect the disadvantages faced by Blacks to their own advantage. Whites have yet to understand the full extent of the privileges structural racism bestows upon them. While many whites readily say that Blacks are discriminated against, they do not see how the lack of opportunity for Blacks translates into more opportunities for whites,” said Mona Kleinberg, assistant professor of political science who helped design and analyzed the poll. “Making the connection that when one group receives less another group gets more is what whites need to see more clearly if we want to end white dominance in the U.S.”
Dyck said he hopes the poll will help add to the conversation about race in America by adding data on people’s perceptions.
“By studying what people believe and highlighting differences through in-depth scientific public opinion polling, we are seeking to add to ongoing and much-needed discussions in this country of racism, social justice and discrimination,” Dyck said. “We hope that this information is useful to the ongoing discourse on how to make our society a more just and equitable one.”
The poll was conducted between Aug. 20 and Aug. 25, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
More information on the poll, including it’s methodogy, can be found at: www.uml.edu/polls.