After tumultuous years of officer-involved shootings that put a strain on law enforcement’s relations with the public, overall confidence in the police has climbed back to the historical average, according to a new poll by Gallup.
Gallup has measured Americans’ confidence in the police for the past 25 years, with an overall average of 57 percent. Overall confidence fell from the historical average in 2013 to 53 percent in June 2014, following the acquittal of vigilante George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.
Overall confidence in the police then plummeted to a record-tying low of 52 percent in June 2015 as the Black Lives Matter movement led a series of protests against officer-involved killings of unarmed black people around the nation.
Despite more police shootings of black men as well as deadly attacks on officers, the percentage of Americans confident in the police increased to 56 percent in June 2016 and to 57 percent last month, according to combined Gallup polls from 2015 through 2017.
And while the overall numbers have rebounded, the survey shows a deepened divide among Americans of different ages, ethnicities and political beliefs when it comes to confidence in the police. In the past two years, the percentage of those who have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police has dropped among blacks, Hispanics, individuals younger than age 35, liberals, Democrats and independents who lean Democratic. Meanwhile, confidence among whites, individuals aged 55 or older, Republicans and independents who lean Republican has been stable or has risen slightly, according to the latest Gallup poll conducted in June 2017.
“On the surface, Americans’ confidence in the police appears strong and steady when compared with other U.S. institutions,” the Gallup poll concludes. “A closer look, however, reveals a troubling loss of confidence among key groups in U.S. society.”