Whites reacting more to Floyd than to prior black victims: Monmouth Poll
The death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis has inflamed public opinion in New Jersey and across the United States much more, at least in the immediate term, than any other police-involved death of a black individual in more than half a decade.
That is the key finding of Tuesday's new Monmouth University Poll, which found 57% of those surveyed felt police were more likely to use excessive force if a culprit was black, compared to 34% following the police shooting of Alton Sterling in Louisiana in 2016, and 33% after the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City in 2014.
Another response, also registering at 57%, signified the number of Americans who feel that societal anger which has resulted in ongoing protests is fully justified, even if opinion remains divided on the actions of those protests.
"It seems we've seen a tipping point or a sea change in public opinion, just over the past few years, in terms of how police officers deal with dangerous situations," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "We usually don't see shifts this big happening so quickly, and that suggests that this is one of those issues that will not fade away, and will not fade away like it has in past years."
The shift among white respondents is especially pronounced at this time, with nearly half (49%) feeling that blacks were more likely to experience excessive force than whites, almost double the rate (25%) from four years ago.
That has seemingly played out in the protests which have dotted New Jersey and the rest of the country for close to a week.
"One of the things that we see in these protests is a larger number of white people being involved than have in past protests for similar incidents," Murray said.
There is at least one finding in the poll in which white Americans surveyed moved in the opposite direction.
On the surface, the percentage of all respondents who feel that race relations have worsened under President Donald Trump is the same as who felt that way under President Barack Obama as of 2016: 53%. In fact, both now and four years ago, the number of people who said relations had gotten better (10%) or felt that things had not changed at all (33%) were also the same.
But in the current poll, 75% of blacks and 65% of other minorities believed race relations had deteriorated versus 45% of whites; in 2016, those numbers were 59% of whites, 37% of blacks, and 38% of other minorities.
Within their own communities, about 7 in 10 respondents expressed some level of satisfaction with their local police departments, although the rates of those who said they were very satisfied ranged from 45% of whites down to 21% of blacks.
Also, Murray said that while an alarming 44% of blacks surveyed said they had been harassed by police, 41% said officers had been helpful to them in dangerous situations, actually a higher percentage than whites in the survey (33%).
"Black Americans seem to see both sides of the coin when dealing with police," he said. "They see the bad side more likely than whites, but they also see the good side, it seems, more often than whites do as well."
Data in the phone survey of 807 adults across the United States was collected in just a five-day window following George Floyd's death, from May 28 through June 1.