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American Respect for Police Hits a 48-Year High

Monday, October 24, 2016 7:41
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The percentage of Americans who say they have a “great deal” of respect for “the police in your area” has just leaped from an already-substantial 64 percent to 76 percent, the highest number the Gallup pollsters have recorded since 1968:

1968 was another year of protest and backlash, and I suspect this surge reflects a similar dynamic. The high-profile shootings of police officers in Dallas and elsewhere probably played a role in that bump.

Another recent Gallup result is less striking but no less significant. This survey asked about people’s confidence in police, not their respect—and it came out in June, so it appeared too early to be influenced by events in Dallas:

Unlike the other poll, this one is in line with the usual results. But it also shows an almost complete recovery from 2015, when the figure hit a 22-year low. This year’s respect numbers may turn out to be an outlier, driven by sympathy for slain officers; but last year’s confidence numbers may well be an outlier too.

That rise in trust is driven pretty much entirely by white people: This year just 39 percent of nonwhites told Gallup they had a high level of confidence in the cops. (For a recent attempt to detect the strength of this cynicism, go here.) Nonwhite respect for the police, on the other hand, leaped this year, though not as high as white respect did:

Note that while the respect question asks specifically about police in the answerer’s area, the confidence question does not. I think the respect responses reflect more than just local factors—obviously, since I think they’re influenced by events like the Dallas shootings—but that difference is still worth keeping in mind.


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