In the wake of nationwide demonstrations over the use of force by police officers, a large majority of California voters said they have not been treated unfairly by law enforcement within the past year. But overall, state voters believe their fellow Americans have been mistreated by law enforcement, according to results from the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll.
Eighty-five percent of Californians said police had not treated them unfairly in the past year, as opposed to 14 percent who said they had been mistreated, according to the poll. Californians responded similarly when asked about members of their family (84-15) and friends and neighbors (76-20), the poll showed.
But nearly two-thirds of California voters said they believed fellow Americans had been mistreated by law enforcement in the past year, as opposed to 28 percent who said they had not, according to the poll.
“There’s a fundamental difference between experiencing something unpleasant yourself, and hearing about it or reading about it secondhand,” said Dan Schnur, director of the poll and executive director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics of USC. “When you read about something, it’s a concern. When it happens to you or a family member, it’s a crisis.”
Voters, even minorities, still largely positive about police
California voters largely believe police are doing their jobs well, are willing to engage with local residents and treat residents of different ethnicities fairly, the poll showed.
Overall, 82 percent of voters said police in their cities had a tough job, and for the most part, did it well, as compared to 14 percent who said that was untrue. Seventy-six percent of voters also said police were willing to engage with local residents, as opposed to 16 percent who disagreed. More than half of voters, 58 percent, disagreed that their local police unfairly target minorities, as opposed to 31 percent who said minorities are unfairly targeted. Voters disagreed that police in their cities are ineffective and too slow to respond (26-66) or that police are too aggressive (18-77).
Among minority groups — including black, Latino and Asian voters — 72 percent agreed that police do their jobs well; 67 percent said police were willing to engage with locals; 43 percent thought police unfairly targeted minorities; 37 percent said police are ineffective and too slow to respond; and 28 percent said police are too aggressive.
“Overall, voters believe that the good that cops do outweighs a few bad apples. They still have faith in police and public safety officials,” said David Kanevsky, vice president of Republican polling firm American Viewpoint, part of the bipartisan team with Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research that conducted the poll.
One-third of voters say police are tougher on blacks
When voters were asked whether they believed police were tougher on residents of different ethnic groups, 40 percent of California voters said police treat all groups the same way. One-third said police are tougher on blacks, 10 percent said police are tougher on Latinos and just 1 percent said police are tougher on whites.
Among minority voters — blacks, Latinos and Asians — 36 percent said police are tougher on blacks, 33 percent said police treat all groups the same way and 18 percent said police were tougher on Latinos. Among whites, 44 percent said police treat all groups the same; 33 percent said police were tougher on blacks; and 5 percent said police were tougher on Latinos.
“Whites are less likely to believe that there’s a bias in the way that police treat different groups,” said Drew Lieberman, vice president of Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. “The commonality here is that there’s a sense that African-Americans get the worst of it.”
The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, the largest statewide survey of registered voters, was conducted May 21-28 and includes a significant oversample of Latino voters as well as one of the most robust cell phone samples in the state. The survey was conducted Sept. 2-8 by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. The full sample of 1,507 California voters has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.