Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

Poll: 70% of Americans Oppose Racial Profiling by the Police



Protests in Ferguson continue today over the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown.

The latest Reason-Rupe poll asked Americans what they thought about a number of issues in the criminal justice system including their perceptions of police abuse, accountability in police departments, and racial bias and injustice.


The latest poll finds fully 70 percent of Americans oppose the use of racial profiling in police departments, while 25 percent support this practice. Breaking these numbers down further, 48 percent strongly disapprove, 22 percent somewhat disapprove, while 12 percent somewhat approve and 13 percent strongly approve.

The question was careful to avoid using the actual words racial profiling, but described it as follows: "It has been reported that some police officers stop motorists or pedestrians of certain racial or ethnic groups because the officers believe that these groups are more likely than others to commit certain types of crimes. Do you approve or disapprove of this practice by the police?"

Considerable demographic and even partisan differences emerge on the practice of racial profiling.

While majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents oppose the practice, Democrats are far more likely to oppose with much stronger intensity. Fully 81 percent of Democrats oppose, including 62 percent who strongly oppose; 17 percent support the practice. Seventy-one percent of independents oppose, including 48 percent who strongly oppose; 20 percent approve.

A majority of Republicans are also opposed, but less so than Democrats and Independents, with 55 percent opposed and only 28 percent strongly opposed. Thirty-seven percent of Republicans favor the use of racial profiling including 22 who stronglyapprove. It should be noted that tea party supporters are not significantly different from regular Republicans who do not support the movement (55 and 59 percent respectively oppose racial profiling, respectively).

Using Reason-Rupe's three-question screen1 to identify political groups, conservatives are the least likely to oppose the use of racial profiling, although a majority still oppose (53%). Libertarians are nearly twenty points more likely than conservatives to oppose police use of racial profiling (69%), and liberals and communitarians are the most likely to oppose the practice, 83 and 79 percent respectively.

White Americans (28%) are nearly twice as likely as African-Americans and Hispanics (14%) to approve of racial profiling by the police. Nevertheless, strong majorities of all racial groups oppose of the practice, 65 percent and 86 percent respectively. In fact, fully 81 percent of African-Americans strongly disapprove of this practice, compared to 62 percent of Hispanics and 40 percent of white Americans.

While all age groups disapprove of racial profiling, older people do so with less intensity.  Fifty-three percent of Americans under age 55 stronglydisapprove of racial profiling, and 20 percent somewhat disapprove. However, among Americans over 55, only 40 percent strongly disapprove and 26 percent somewhat disapprove.

Many may find it troubling that those who support racial profiling are also the most likely (64%) to believe the criminal justice system in American treats all racial groups equally while 25 percent believe the system gives preferential treatment to white Americans. In contrast, among those who oppose racial profiling, 53 percent believe the system is biased against minorities, and 37 percent believe all are treated equally. Overall, Americans are divided in their perception of actual systematic bias: 44 percent say the criminal justice system treats black and Hispanic Americans less fairly than white Americans. Another 45 percent say the system treats everyone equally under the law. Similar partisan and demographic patterns emerge, but considerably more dramatic.

The Reason-Rupe national telephone poll, executed by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, conducted live interviews with 1004 adults on cell phones (503) and landlines (501) October 1-6, 2014. The poll's margin of error is +/-3.8%. Full poll results can be found here. including poll toplines (pdf)  and crosstabs (xls). 

Three Question Screen Includes1:

1) Next…as I read the following pairs of statements, please tell me which comes closer to your own opinion. First, we need a strong government to handle today's complex economic problems; OR, people would be better able to handle today's problems within a free market with less government involvement.

2) Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?

3) If you had to choose, would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services, or a larger government providing more services?

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  1. 3) If you had to choose, would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services, or a larger government providing more services?

    This should be modified to say:

    3) If you had to choose, would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services and taking less taxes, or a larger government providing more services and taking more taxes?

    1. Exactly. It’s like asking a little kid “Would you rather Santa bring you more or fewer presents for Christmas.”

      Most little kids eventually realize the presents aren’t free. Why most adults can’t realize this, I have no idea.

      Although maybe it’s because for most adults they are getting “more stuff” for “free” because they’re net recipients of tax dollars.

    2. It’s repetitive enough as it is. What’s a smaller government that provides more services?

  2. Police like anybody else respond to incentives, if they are patted on the back or rewarded everytime they make an arrest or write a ticket they are going continue to do those things and find the most efficient methods possible. Educated welloff people tend to have the resources to create a stink over those policies while uneducated lower class people don’t and blacks disproportional make up that population, this is the problem. Racial profiling will continue to be a problem until blacks raise their social economic profile. The racism involved in racial profiling is a racism of convenience. We will get no where opposing racial profiling, we will get everywhere by creating more economic opportunities for blacks by lowering barriers to entry, ending the drug trade, and proceeding with school of choice.

    1. ^^this

    2. The fuzz will thump a low-income or weird-lookin’ white just as easy as they would a brother.

    3. Racial profiling will continue to be a problem until blacks raise their social economic profile.

      Exactly. If it were simply animosity towards all non-whites we’d see East Asians being profiled too. Fact is, blacks do fall into the lower uneducated classes that are certainly disadvantaged by the system, not because of their ‘blackness’ per se, but because of their cultural norms which are fairly degenerate and not conducive to the accumulation of wealth. Racism is a real thing but in modern times it’s negative consequences pale in comparison to the self-inflicted injury done by black culture.

      1. Black children don’t get to choose what culture they’re born into. Is this (very) racist bullshitting meant to serve as an excuse for why those children don’t deserve social help too?

  3. Experiment:

    Three groups; 1)mid-twenties white kids with tattoos, a hat on backwards, cartoon short Pants around their knees, making a spectacle of themselves, some of them holding bottles in paper bags.

    2)Mid-thirties white guys in bike gang dress and gear…not the ‘we ride for Jesus’ types, but the OB types.

    3)A middle aged black couple…man clean shaven, neat and in a suit, woman in a tasteful dress understated jewelry walking arm in arm.

    Have them all walk down the street one at a time in front of white cops, black cops, and mixed cops.

    Who do you suppose is going to be hassled?

    The cops don’t racially profiles much as they class profile. Weird clothes, weird hair, ‘don’t give a fuck’ body language, making a spectacle of yourself….these are the things that draw the attention of the cops.

    Exception: Young black male. It doesn’t seem to matter what they do.

    1. The order above would be 1)-2)-3).

    2. Point of clarification: Is the gentleman in #3 wearing a bow tie?

      1. and does he respond to “Calypso Louie”?

  4. As someone who does not see color, I always wonder at these sort of polls.

  5. my friend’s sister makes $83 an hour on the laptop . She has been fired for ten months but last month her payment was $12435 just working on the laptop for a few hours
    Find Out More. ????????????

  6. What is sad is that a magazine that touts itself as being reasonable is presenting poll data (people’s opinions) and fails to point out readily available facts that discount most of the above information as incorrect.

    Black officers stop black citizens as much if not more than white officers? Are black officers racist against blacks? Black officers also arrest black citizens at an equal rate as white officers. How can that be?

    Studies show that it is more likely to be the demeanor of the subject and not their race that has the largest influence on the arresting officer.

    The U.S. Department of Justice has numbers on arrests and convictions that are hidden in tables of their annual reports. These numbers show that when variables are taken into account (weapon involved, criminal history), whites are convicted at a higher rate than blacks and receive longer sentences than blacks.

    None of this is new. William Wilbanks’ book, The Myth of a Racist Criminal Justice System, has been used in criminology classes since the late 80’s and his theories are just as valid today.

    But why look at the numbers when we have polls from the well-informed public.

  7. If this poll is true, then 70% of Americans can’t do simple math.
    If red cars speed more than blue cars, you profile red cars.
    If one race commits three times the rate of crimes of another race (according to FBI statistics), than is is foolish not to profile, even of 70% of Americans are too cowardly, ignorant or both to face the truth.

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