More Policing, Same Amount of Policing, or Less Policing?

A new poll reports on attitudes on this subject, broken down by race.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

From a Gallup Poll released yesterday:

Preference for Amount of Time Police Spend in Your Area
Would you rather the police spend more time, the same amount
of time or less time as they currently spend in your area?

 More time Same amount of time Less time
 % %%
Black Americans206119
White Americans177112
Hispanic Americans245917
Asian Americans96328
U.S. adults196714

Of course, this doesn't tell us what police should be doing—or, more importantly, how they should be doing it. But it does bear a bit on the "defund the police" controversy.

There are lots of other interesting statistics in the poll (though I recognize that, as usual, there are possible flaws inherent in such statistical methods); read the whole thing.


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  1. This is another example of how out of touch elites are with the people.

    1. Of course, this doesn’t tell us what police should be doing

      1. True, but people who oppose police or at lease seek to substantially defund them would presumably want the less in their neighborhoods. This would particularly be true with respect to blacks whom we’re told have the most to fear.

        The poll is admittedly limited, but it does provide some insight with other recent data that loud and angry activists don’t necessarily represent majority opinion. This is precisely why major Democrats like Biden and Pelosi have been *very* quick and eager to explain the nuances of how “defund the police” really doesn’t defund the police.

        1. Yeah, defund the police is a slogan. Not just the politicians – activists are also easy to find explaining what defund the police stands for. They don’t always agree, but I’ve not seen a lot of nakedly eliminationist rhetoric.

          That’s why the question doesn’t give a lot of insight. Because part of it is redefining police as a subset of law enforcement, not all of law enforcement. Or more police, but without weapons. Or changing the legal analysis of what use-of-force is legitimate.

          Not that I don’t agree with you that the activists are not aligned with public thinking. Activists, by their nature, rarely are.

          I actually think this go-round has pushed as far as it’s going to go and we’re going to have to sacrifice another black person before any nationwide operational change occurs. It’s a freaking tragedy that we will have to, but that’s where we are.

          1. One poll question was never going to provide any detailed insight. It’s only informative in context with other data.

            However, I disagree that there hasn’t been much eliminationist rhetoric. For example, see the Minneapolis City Council wanted to totally remove the police and redefine policing duties, and this was only delayed by the Charter Commission. While it is true that the plans and ideas of activists vary, there is indeed a strain of significant radical thinking, with support from some left-wing politicians like “The Squad.” More mainstream politicians like Biden know that the rhetoric could be poison in many suburbs and contested districts, and thus repeatedly try to offer “nuance,” particularly as violent crime soars in many major cities. Don’t confuse what major Democratic / anti-Trump-leaning media want to stress during and election and what a lot of activists are actually saying.

            Nevertheless, if you choose “Defund the Police” as your slogan, it’s hardly unfair or unreasonable for people to take you at your word.

            1. From what I heard from observers in the Seattle area, the folks there saying “defund the police” were pretty serious about it. And their city council has voted to reduce their budget 50%.

              1. Which is not elimination. And yet many pretend BLM is arguing for elimination, based largely on that slogan.

            2. totally remove the police and redefine policing duties is not elimination. Nor is it rhetoric.

              The Squad has evinced no elimination rhetoric I’ve heard.

              FDR chose ‘a chicken in every pot’ but I don’t think people took him at his word. And no one thought the Founders were worried about getting stepped on.
              Amazing how people selectively forget how slogans work when it’s convenient for them.

              1. Wasn’t “a chicken in every pot” attributed to Hoover?

                1. You are correct. I thought it was a New Deal thing.

              2. The Squad is very eliminationalist, and is much of the left. For example,

                Many of the plans of activists and sitting politicians go far beyond some cuts or redirected funding or even significant reform, and easily fall within or pretty damn close to literally defunding the police.

                They could have chosen a slogan like “Reform the Police” if that was really their intent. They choose not to in order to make a radical statement, and deserve any criticism they receive.

                I have no doubt that Biden and Pelosi are not pleased that they need to regularly explain or defend the slogan. As they say in politics, “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.”

                1. I don’t think you and I are using eliminationist in the same way, then.

                  Moving resources to empower other law enforcement methods that aren’t so involved with use of force is not eliminating the police, not as most see the police – congruent with law enforcement. Ending that congruence is actually the reform amongst the many I am most excited about.

                  Reform the Police is a crap slogan, and you know it.

                  1. I, and apparently many Democrats, similarly believe “Defund the Police” is a pretty crappy slogan, at least anywhere with competitive politics. Forcing the proponents of the slogan to defend it is certainly fair game in politics.

                    Our disagreement on when defunding, downsizing, or any other purported reforms rise to the level of “eliminationalist” is echoed across the country in response to the slogan. It’s really not the type of explaining most national or prominent Democrats want to do during a presidential election, no less with rising violent crime rates.

                    1. I mean, sure, activists that are doing their job right are always a burr in the ass of the establishment. That they’ve made things hard on Pelosi not something they care about.

                      If Schumer and Pelosi had come up with the slogan, then yeah we could make fun of them for it.

                      It’s also the kind of marginal thing that looks not to be moving the needle in these days of Trump invading cities and cancelling corporations and whatever other melodrama next week will bring.

          2. Sacrifice a black person is strange but revealing rhetoric considering many more people of other races are killed by police.

            Should the death of a white person not also spur policing improvement?

            1. Black people and police are a special case. Lots of reasons why that’s the case, some true, some only perceived.

      2. Democracy is about giving people what they want, not what they need.

        Authoritarian governments give people what they need, not what they want.

        1. Representative democracy is designed to be neither of those extremes.

          1. Representative democracy has a multitude of virtues, but planning for long-term interest by requiring present sacrifices is not one of them.

            To quote Churchill, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

            1. History is full of America planning for long-term interest be requiring present sacrifices. War is a great example. So is environmental legislation. Heck, that’s what taxes are.

              I’d note that the question is comparative as well, and dictatorships, while known for pushing present sacrifices, are not very good at the
              long-term interests part when compared to representative democracies.

              1. I wasn’t defending dictatorship, just acknowledging the flaws in a lot of democracies.

                And, yes, democracies can plan for the future with present sacrifices, but I would argue that’s less a feature of democracies and more the culture of the particular society.

                Do you believe Americans as a whole today would suffer the same sacrifices as nearly a century ago?

                1. I think the classic example here is climate change. The climate scientists are in agreement that we’re headed to a catastrophe. The problem is that the only really effective ways of fixing climate change would completely crash the economy, and no politician of of either party is going to agree to that. So I think the cold, hard political reality is that the only thing to be done about climate change is to hope our evolutionary successors do a better job with the planet than we did.

  2. Interesting. I would never have guessed that Asian Americans were–by far!–the demographic most in favor of lowering police presence.

    1. It had to do with “in your area”, not police presence in general. I’m acquainted with a fair number of Asian Americans, and I’d guess the reasoning here is, “I live in a low crime area, the police are being wasted here.”

      Just a concern for economy among people who typically wouldn’t be found in high crime areas to begin with.

      At least that would be my guess.

      1. I know plenty of Asian Americans myself and I would concur with your assessment, with one addition: “I live in a low crime area, the police are being wasted here. They should be in the Black neighborhoods.

  3. That is probably one of the dumbest poll questions I have ever seen.

  4. True believer progressives are concentrated in the technocratic/ivory tower crowd. Of which Asians and whites form a larger part of. Much of the rank and file and lower classes that leftists supposedly cater to simply go along for material/economic benefits but don’t really buy into the nonsense.

    Interestingly asians were more up for grabs in the 80s and 90s but of course the Republicans blew it and did absolutely nothing to appeal to them. This in combination with the younger generation growing up in the more privileged/’urbanist’ milieu edged them over demographically. Of course its still pretty dumb all things considered since they get absolutely nothing out of allying themselves with the progs.

    1. True believer progressives are concentrated in the technocratic/ivory tower crowd.
      This is probably 20 years out of date.

      How does on appeal to the ‘Asian’ vote? They’re even less of a monolith than most racial groups.

  5. I too think a Gallup poll of people with phones is a great way to determine how people who interact with police feel about the police.

    You know if we just keep ignoring all the poor people who don’t vote anyway eventually they’ll just disappear.

    1. “The Gallup Panel is a multimode Panel with approximately 100,000 members, all of whom can be reached via phone. About 80,000 members can be reached by email to complete a Web survey. Panel members that cannot be contacted by email can be reached by mail. Gallup selects potential panel members using random-digit-dialing (RDD) of landline telephones and cellphones or address-based sampling (ABS) to contact U.S. households at random. Because Gallup selects respondents at random, and because all U.S. households have an equal and known probability for selection, the Panel is a representative sample of all American households.”

      Wow. That is SO representative of the people who encounter police. As a public defender, I can’t even tell you how often my clients have the same phone for long periods of time and email addresses because they are able to afford these things.

      This is some dumb shit.

  6. Of course, this doesn’t tell us what police should be doing—or, more importantly, how they should be doing it. But it does bear a bit on the “defund the police” controversy.

    No, it does not bear at all on the, “defund the police,” controversy. The “defund the police” controversy is not about how much time the police spend here or there. It is about who they hire, what skill sets police departments need, what they do, how they are equipped, how they are trained—and and about using budgetary leverage to impose reforms in those areas.

    The notion that the controversy is about police availability to the public is a right-wing bogey-man/talking point. It has been made up for political advantage. Right wingers think they can reap votes from racists by dog-whistling to the racists that the left wants to unleash black crime by withdrawing police protection. That is not what “defund the police” is about.

  7. It is about who they hire, what skill sets police departments need, what they do, how they are equipped, how they are trained—and and about using budgetary leverage to impose reforms in those areas.

    Weird how none of those things actually constitute defunding the police. No, all of those things would go under ordinary police reform efforts that we see all the time and that even when successful don’t accomplish the ultimate goal.

    Defunding the police is about a fundamental restructuring of what we ask the police to actually do. Whether armed law enforcement should be used to, e.g., handle a person having a mental health episode, or a kid misbehaving at school, things like that.

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