May 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Axios-Ipsos poll: Black Americans' police experiences are getting worse

Over the past year, do you believe police shootings of Black or Brown youths have <span style="color:#ab7d36">improved</span> or <span style="color:#1b1c5a">worsened</span>?
Data: Axios/Ipsos Poll; Note: 2.8% margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals

Nearly seven out of 10 Black Americans say police treatment has gotten worse in the past year, and about the same percentage believe police shootings of Black and brown youths have become worse in that time, according to an Axios-Ipsos poll.

The big picture: The poll, conducted a year after George Floyd's death, suggests that the relationship between Black Americans and the police not only hasn't improved, but is a profound and escalating crisis.

  • Far from seeing the police's role as one to protect and serve, a majority of Black Americans now say that calling the police or 911 often does more harm than good.
  • And that distrust is backed by personal experience. Black and Hispanic Americans are significantly more likely than white or Asian Americans to encounter threatening situations at traffic stops, like guns drawn or extra officers called in.
  • More results from the poll will be released later today in the latest of Axios' "Hard Truths" series of deep dives on systemic racism, this one focusing on the criminal justice system.

By the numbers: 68% of Black respondents said police treatment of Black Americans has gotten worse in the past year, with just 6% saying it has improved.

  • 42% of Hispanic respondents and 37% of Asian respondents agreed that police treatment of Black Americans has become worse.
  • By contrast, just 25% of white Americans agreed, with 61% saying police treatment of Black Americans had neither improved nor worsened in the last year.

Likewise, 72% of Black Americans said police shootings of Black or brown youths have gotten worse in the last year — a view that was shared by 49% of Hispanic Americans, and comes after the deaths of 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant and 13-year-old Adam Toledo in recent weeks.

  • 32% of white respondents and 44% of Asian respondents agreed.

Most Americans still have a positive view of police and law enforcement. But that's not true of Black Americans. Just four out of 10 said they have favorable views of police and law enforcement, while 57% said they have unfavorable views.

  • By contrast, 69% overall — including 75% of white respondents, 64% of Hispanic respondents and 65% of Asian respondents — said they have favorable views.

Between the lines: Seven out of 10 Black respondents said they've been pulled over by the police, slightly less than the 83% of white respondents who said they've been stopped. (For Hispanic and Asian respondents, the numbers were 54% and 58%.)

  • But once they've been stopped, 14% of Black respondents and 9% of Hispanic respondents said a police officer has taken a gun or taser out of its holster, compared to 4% of white respondents and 2% of Asian respondents.
  • And 40% of Black respondents and 31% of Hispanic respondents said more police officers have arrived on the scene during the stop, compared to 22% of white respondents and 13% of Asian respondents.
  • There's also a strong sense that the stops are unreasonable. More than half of all Black respondents — 56% — say they've been pulled over for a reason they thought was unjustified or wrong, compared to 41% of Hispanic respondents, 32% of white respondents and 22% of Asian respondents.

The distrust is so severe that many people of color don't see calling the police as a viable option in an emergency.

  • 55% of Black Americans and 40% of Hispanic Americans said calling the police or 911 often does more harm than good — a view shared by just 25% of white Americans and 25% of Asian Americans.
  • And when they see a police car in their neighborhood with its lights or siren off, 44% of Black Americans say they feel anxiety — either mostly fear or a mix with some anxiety — a view shared by 38% of Asian Americans, 33% of Hispanic Americans and 23% of white Americans.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos poll was conducted April 28-May 4 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,875 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±2.8 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.

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