How Americans Feel About ‘Defunding The Police’

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

“Defund the police.” In the last several weeks, this slogan has entered the mainstream amid nationwide protests against police violence.

However, there’s some disagreement about what exactly the slogan means. Some activists actually do want to disband police departments entirely, while others argue that police budgets should be radically decreased, but not brought down to zero. But even among those who want to abolish the police, some say they want to do so over time.

But while the slogan is suddenly everywhere, so far it doesn’t poll well. Four polls conducted in the past two weeks1 found that Americans opposed the “defund the police” movement or “defunding police departments” 58 percent to 31 percent, on average.

Most Americans balk at defunding the police

Recent polls asking people whether they support or oppose the “defund the police” movement or “defunding police departments”

Dates Pollster Support Oppose
June 14-16 The Economist/YouGov 24% 53%
June 12-14 Morning Consult/Politico 28 58
June 10-11 ABC News/Ipsos 34 64
June 9-10 Reuters/Ipsos* 39 57
Average 31 58

*Question only asked of those who said they were very or somewhat familiar with the “defund the police” movement.

All polls are of adults, except the Morning Consult/Politico poll, which is of registered voters.

Source: Polls

The slogan is unpopular with most demographic groups, too, with two notable exceptions: Black Americans and Democrats. In the two polls where results were broken down by race, Black respondents said they supported defunding the police by an average of 45 percent to 28 percent, while white respondents opposed it by an average of 61 percent to 23 percent. This is in line with other polls that have consistently shown that white people mostly see police in a favorable light, while Black people are likelier to have experienced mistreatment at officers’ hands and take the problem of police violence seriously. So what we’re seeing here may be another reflection of Black and white Americans’ different experiences with police.

Similarly, in the three polls with breakdowns by party, Democrats on average supported the “defund the police” movement 50 percent to 34 percent, and Republicans on average opposed it 84 percent to 11 percent. Granted, only about a quarter of Democrats “strongly” supported it, per Morning Consult/Politico and Reuters/Ipsos, but three-quarters of Republicans “strongly” opposed it.

However, “defund the police” is also a simplistic slogan, and the poll results above do not capture public opinion on the movement’s more concrete policy goals. Specifically, defunding the police is only half of its goal; activists also want to reallocate the money spent on policing to other parts of the social safety net. Indeed, in those very same polls, some of these policy ideas enjoy far more backing among the American public than the slogan does — though the level of support does vary pretty widely depending on the details of the proposal.

For instance, when Reuters/Ipsos queried people about “proposals to move some money currently going to police budgets into better officer training, local programs for homelessness, mental health assistance, and domestic violence,” a whopping 76 percent of people who were familiar with those proposals supported them, with only 22 percent opposed. Democrats and independents supported these proposals in huge numbers while Republicans were split, 51 percent in favor to 47 percent opposed.

Meanwhile, Morning Consult/Politico asked respondents whether they supported “redirecting funding for the police department in [their] local community to support community development programs,” and just 43 percent of register voters said they supported it, while 42 percent opposed it. Still, this was a significant increase in support from the pollster’s question about support for the “movement to ‘defund the police’” (which, to reiterate, was 28 percent support vs. 58 percent opposition).

Overall, questions that seemed to emphasize how police departments would be affected found less support. Reuters/Ipsos respondents who were familiar with “proposals to completely dismantle police departments and give more financial support to address homelessness, mental health, and domestic violence” said they opposed those proposals, 58 percent to 39 percent. That was virtually identical to the way respondents broke down in the pollster’s question about the “‘defund the police’ movement.” And finally, per ABC News/Ipsos, 39 percent supported and 60 percent opposed “reducing the budget of the police department in your community, even if that means fewer police officers, if the money is shifted to programs related to mental health, housing, and education.” That made the specific proposal slightly more popular than “the movement to ‘defund the police’” (34 percent support vs. 64 percent opposition), but the difference was well within the pollster’s margin of error.

The idea of redirecting funding from police departments is a new one to most Americans, so the contours of the debate are still being defined — and so is public opinion. While the “defund the police” slogan itself is quite unpopular, there does appear to be some support for rethinking police departments’ role in local budgets and the community, so public opinion on this issue could very well lead to policy change.

Other polling bites

  • A new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation highlighted many of the ways Americans are treated differently because of their race. A full 71 percent of non-Hispanic Black respondents said they had been subjected to discrimination or violence because of their race, including 48 percent who said they had feared for their lives. For non-Hispanic white respondents, those numbers were 23 percent and 16 percent, respectively.
  • After National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell admitted the league was wrong to bar players from kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, Morning Consult found that fewer Americans believed this was an unacceptable form of protest. In September 2017, 48 percent thought kneeling was unacceptable; this month, 39 percent thought so. However, that doesn’t mean more Americans think this action is acceptable: That figure now sits at 38 percent, virtually unchanged from 2017. Instead, the share who say they don’t know whether kneeling during the anthem is acceptable has risen from 13 percent to 23 percent.
  • According to the latest Gallup tracker of national pride, 63 percent of American adults said they were “extremely” or “very” proud to be an American. However, that number is the lowest Gallup has found since it began asking this question in 2001. National pride has been on a steady downward slope since 2013, when 85 percent said they were extremely or very proud to be an American.
  • Researchers at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Texas at Austin are out with a cool YouGov poll surveying Americans on the cases before the Supreme Court this term. For example, respondents said 83 percent to 17 percent that they believed it should be illegal for employees to be fired because of their sexual orientation, the subject of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. Respondents also favored keeping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the subject of Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, 61 percent to 39 percent. And this week, the court sided with the American public on both cases.
  • One of 2020’s highest-quality state polls to date suggests that President Trump and Senate Republicans are in serious electoral danger. The latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll by Selzer and Co. gave Trump 44 percent and former Vice President Joe Biden 43 percent in Iowa; it also showed Democrat Theresa Greenfield at 46 percent and Republican Sen. Joni Ernst at 43 percent. Given that Iowa has become a Republican-leaning state in recent years, Trump and Biden being virtually tied there shows just how robust Biden’s national lead is. And if Democrats do indeed lead in the Senate race there, they are probably well on their way to the three or four pick-ups they need to take control of that chamber.
  • According to Monmouth University, 63 percent of Americans were planning to take a summer vacation before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, only 14 percent say they either definitely or probably will stick with those plans, and only 26 percent say they either definitely or probably will take a summer vacation at all. Of those who changed or might change their travel plans, 96 percent cited the pandemic as the main reason for their decision.

Trump approval

How Americans Feel About ‘Defunding The Police’ 1

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 41.2 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 55.2 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -14.0 points). At this time last week, 40.9 percent approved and 54.8 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -13.9 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 43.8 percent and a disapproval rating of 51.9 percent, for a net approval rating of -8.1 points.

Generic ballot

How Americans Feel About ‘Defunding The Police’ 2

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 7.9 percentage points (48.6 percent to 40.7 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 7.9 points (48.5 percent to 40.6 percent). At this time last month, voters also preferred Democrats by 7.9 points (48.4 percent to 40.5 percent).

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.

Juneteenth recognized by more states, companies as a holiday