Attitudes on Policing and Police Unions
In the wake of widespread protests sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a majority of Americans (58%) say major changes are needed to make policing better. An additional 36% say minor changes are needed, while 6% say no changes are needed. There are substantial differences by demographic groups. Almost nine in 10 Black Americans (88%) say major changes are needed, compared with 63% of Hispanic Americans and 51% of White Americans.
Abolishing police departments. This is the most extreme proposal in response to police misconduct: disbanding police departments in favor of different public safety models. The Minneapolis City Council voted in June to go this route, saying the problems that contributed to George Floyd's death are too deeply ingrained to reform the existing department. For most Americans, the idea of abolishing the police goes too far: 15% overall say they support it, with Black Americans (22%) and Hispanic Americans (20%) somewhat more likely than White Americans (12%) to do so. Almost no Republicans (1%) support the idea, versus 27% of Democrats and 12% of independents. However, there is also a sharp distinction between younger and older adults on this question; one-third of those younger than 35 (33%) support the idea, compared with 16% of those aged 35 to 49 and 4% of those aged 50 and older.
Eliminating police unions. In recent years, some who advocate police reform have accused police unions of blocking efforts to increase officers' accountability for their actions, such as forming independent offices to investigate allegations of misconduct. A majority of Americans, 56%, support eliminating police unions, with results relatively consistent among Black (61%), Hispanic (56%) and White (55%) adults. Despite much higher approval of labor unions in general among Democrats than Republicans, Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans to favor eliminating police unions (62% vs. 45%, respectively). Political independents fall closer to Democrats, at 57%.
See Dan DiSalvo's reflections on public employee unions more generally.