A racial divide persists in New Jersey over police, criminal justice
African-Americans in the Garden State trust police and the criminal justice far less than whites, according to the latest Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released Wednesday.
Recent events in Baltimore, Ferguson and elsewhere are not the reason for the racial divide. The numbers in the new survey mirror those in a poll taken eight years ago.
"A chasm of distrust separates blacks from whites in New Jersey," said Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of PublicMind. "While three-quarters of whites say they trust police to treat everyone equally only 42 percent of blacks say the same."
Nearly half of whites (47 percent) say they have "a lot" of trust in the police, but only 14 percent of blacks said the same.
Racial divide in prosecutorial equity and legal aid availability poll results included:
- 77 percent of whites said they trust prosecutors, with 38 percent who say they have "a lot" of trust;
- 45 percent of blacks trust prosecutors, with only 10 percent who say they have 'a lot' of trust;
- Only seven percent of blacks say they have 'a lot' of trust in the system to provide effective legal representation;
- 54 percent of whites trust the system, with 21 percent who say they have 'a lot' of trust.
The poll shows that life experiences played a role in the opinions of those surveyed. Overall, 23 percent of respondents said they or someone they know have been stopped by the police for reasons that they suspect had something to do with who they are rather than what they allegedly did. Seventy-six percent said they were not in that situation, but 42 percent of blacks said they or someone they know has been in such a situation while only 18 percent of whites said the same.
"More than twice the number of blacks than whites said they believed they or someone they know has been stopped for reasons that had more to do with who they were rather than what they did," Jenkins said.
These figures do not represent a new phenomena and that is disturbing Jenkins noted.
"The overall takeaway is that we asked these questions back in 2006 and nothing's changed," Jenkins said. "The numbers should give public officials pause. Black residents in New Jersey don't think they can trust the system to treat them fairly. When we compare the numbers to eight years ago attitudes appear to have hardened."
The poll of 1,314 adults which included an oversample of 403 African-Americans in New Jersey was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from April 13-19. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.