Americans are losing faith in police as more incidents of brutality against black people capture the national spotlight — but the drop is almost entirely pronounced among Democrats.
A new survey by Gallup found confidence in police is at its lowest point since 1993, a year after the acquittal of police officers who beat Rodney King led to riots in Los Angeles. About 52 percent of 1,527 Americans surveyed earlier in June said they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in police, down from 57 percent in 2013 and at the same rate as 22 years ago. Gallup pointed out that this is still some of the highest confidence Americans express toward any particular institution, but it is a historic low.
What's behind the drop? As with everything in America, partisan politics appear to be part of the issue. About 42 percent of Democrats reported confidence in police in a 2014-2015 period analyzed by Gallup, down from 55 percent in a 2012-2013 period. Confidence among Republicans remained about the same: 69 percent in the 2014-2015 period, compared with 68 percent in the 2012-2013 period.
Some of the results reflect racial differences in the two parties. Black people are much more likely to report being Democrat, and only about 30 percent reported confidence in police over the past two years — well below the national average of 53 percent.
But Gallup's survey showed nonwhite Democrats are also losing confidence in police. While nonwhite Democrats reported a drop in confidence in police of 14 percentage points between the 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 periods, white Democrats expressed a fairly similar 11-point drop.
Gallup found that Democrats of all races tend to take race issues more seriously, which helps explain the partisan difference. Concerns about police brutality have come about because of specific incidents in which police shot or otherwise used force and killed black men — Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Eric Garner in New York City, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, as a few examples. If Democrats are more worried about race issues in general, it makes sense that they're more worried about racial disparities in police use of force, as well.