Ever since the August 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, prominent activists, journalists, and politicians across America have accused police departments of systemic, racially motivated abuses. Over that same period, we’ve seen a number of high-profile police shootings of suspects, as well as ambush-style killings of police officers in New York, Dallas, Baton Rouge, and other places. Meanwhile, between 2014 and 2015, the country experienced a 10.8 percent increase in murders — the largest annual increase since 1971.
How have all these trends affected public sentiment toward the police? According to a new Gallup survey, Americans’ respect for their local police is near historic highs, with 76 percent saying they “have ‘a great deal’ of respect for the police in their area.” That’s up from 64 percent in 2015, and it’s very close to the all-time high of 77 percent in 1967.
We should note, in particular, that the share of people with a great deal of respect for their local police increased by 14 points among non-whites (from 53 percent to 67 percent), by 21 points among liberals (from 50 percent to 71 percent), and by 19 points among those aged 18 to 34 (from 50 percent to 69 percent).
“It’s unclear whether the spike in respect for police will have staying power or if it reflects mostly a reaction to the retaliatory killings against police officers last summer,” says Gallup.
For now, at least, it appears the anti-cop activists are failing to win hearts and minds.