Poll Shows 70% Of Whites Are In Favor Of Police Brutality
Whites in the United States approve of police officers hitting people in far greater numbers than blacks and Hispanics do, a striking difference at a time when the U.S. is struggling to deal with police use of deadly force against minorities, according to a major American trend survey.
Seven of 10 whites polled, or 70 percent, said they can imagine a situation in which they would approve of a police officer striking an adult male citizen, according to the 2014 General Social Survey, a long-running measurement of trends in American opinions. When asked the same question, just 42 percent of blacks and 38 percent of Hispanics said they could.
These results come as Americans grapple with trust between law enforcement and minority communities after a series of incidents, including the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City. Thousands of people protested in the streets last year after the deaths of 18-year-old Michael Brown and 43-year-old Eric Garner, who gasped “I can’t breathe” as police arrested him for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
The survey shows the gap between whites, blacks and Hispanics long predates those deaths.
The poll results don’t surprise experts on American attitudes toward police, who say experiences and history with law enforcement shape opinions about the use of violence by officers.
“Whites are significantly more likely to give police officers the benefit of the doubt, either because they have never had an altercation with a police officer or because they tend to see the police as allies in the fight against crime,” said Ronald Weitzer, a George Washington University sociology professor who has studied race and policing in the U.S. and internationally.