The FINANCIAL — When asked to name what can be done to reduce the number of deadly encounters between black men and police in the U.S. today, Americans – taken as a whole – offer suggestions that fall under three main headings: changes in society, changes in the black community and changes in the police.
Americans name race relations and racism as the single most important problem facing the U.S. today, reflecting the aftermath of shootings of black men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, and the shootings of police officers by black men in Texas and Louisiana. Americans’ opinions about what to do to reduce these types of deadly encounters, from a July 13-17 Gallup survey, help inject the perspective of everyday Americans into the discussion. The public’s views augment those voiced by politicians, pundits, community leaders, police officials, journalists and others who have easy media access, according to Gallup.
Overall, no one solution dominates the American people’s thinking, but instead Americans offer a spectrum of suggestions and ways of addressing the problem. The three most frequently occurring specific responses are better communications and relations (suggested by 19% of the public), better and additional police training (9%) and changes in blacks’ attitudes toward the police (8%) — each exemplifying a broader category of similar-minded responses.
An approach to solving the problem of deadly shootings that emphasizes just one of these approaches would ignore the multifaceted set of solutions from the public that touch on a number of different aspects of the situation.
Democrats, Liberals Most Likely to Suggest Changes in Police
Recommendations vary among different subgroups of Americans, and particularly along political and ideological lines. Democrats and liberals’ suggestions tend to focus more on changes in the way police operate, while Republicans and conservatives are more likely to suggest that changes are needed in the black community. The differences among any of these groups are not extremely large, however, with a good deal of overlap in the types of suggestions made by members in each.
Whites are somewhat more likely to suggest changes in black communities than changes involving the police, while nonwhites are more likely to suggest changes in the police.
Little Change in Americans’ Optimism That a Solution Can Be Worked Out
About six in 10 Americans indicate in the mid-July survey that a solution to the problem of the relations between blacks and whites in the U.S. will eventually be worked out. This update is little changed from responses to the same question in June, despite the intervening occurrence of highly publicized deaths in early July of two black men at the hands of the police, and the killings of five police officers by a black man.
In fact, there has been little change over the past five years in Americans’ attitudes about eventually finding a solution to problems that linger in black-white relations, even though this time period has included a long string of high-profile killings of black men by police officers. At the same time, however, Americans’ ratings of black-white relations have also suffered.
The American public does not coalesce around one specific solution to the problem of deadly encounters between black men and police. Rather, Americans make a number of suggestions, including calling for broad changes in society and culture, changes in black communities and changes in the way the police are trained and operate. These results underscore the difficulty in coming up a quick answer to the problem, and emphasize how — at least from the American public’s perspective taken as a whole — the issue needs to be addressed on many different fronts.
A majority of Americans continue to hold out hope that a solution to the broader issue of relations between whites and blacks will eventually be worked out. This optimism indicates the public is apparently open to suggestions and proposed actions that address this complex and highly important issue.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted July 13-17, 2016, with a random sample of 1,023 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.