As lawmakers try to find a bipartisan compromise on police reform, new polling data reveals that a more progressive approach has fairly strong support as well.
Per a Vox/Data for Progress survey, the Breathe Act, legislation that would implement a more sweeping overhaul of policing that has been championed by activists including the Movement for Black Lives, also has 51 percent likely voter backing. The much less ambitious George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has strong support as well, with an even higher 66 percent in backing.
And yet, neither is likely to make it into law. Both bills are more expansive than what lawmakers are currently negotiating, and face roadblocks when it comes to the Senate. While Democrats made the Justice in Policing Act their starting point in negotiations, it doesn’t have the votes to get through the upper chamber and neither would the Breathe Act.
Because of the Senate’s current 50-50 split, the existence of the legislative filibuster, and Democrats’ own internal divisions on police reform, they will have to compromise with Republicans to advance a bill, suggesting that whatever could pass will be more limited than the Justice in Policing Act.
The differences between the various policing measures are significant.
The Breathe Act, the more progressive option, calls for the closure of federal agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and divesting federal funds allocated to law enforcement. It also includes an array of other reforms including offering federal grants to local governments to invest in public safety alternatives, and pushing for an end to mandatory minimums.
The Justice in Policing Act would center on curbing qualified immunity protections for police officers, making it easier to prosecute police officers at the federal level and establishing a national registry of police misconduct. Republicans’ Justice Act, meanwhile, would call on individual law enforcement agencies to keep records about misconduct, incentivize state and local agencies to ban chokeholds, and gather data about the use of no-knock warrants.
Any bipartisan agreement is expected to include a more limited version of qualified immunity reforms, and potential federal bans on chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases.
Backing for different components of the Breathe Act varies. According to the poll, 56 percent of people favor reducing incarcerations, 43 percent support closures of agencies including ICE and DEA, 51 percent support ending mandatory minimum sentences, and 52 percent back additional federal money that incentivizes local governments to invest in public safety alternatives.
The poll indicates that activists’ favored approach has stable public backing, though most people still prefer an option that preserves the existing policing system (58 percent), compared to one that significantly shifts funding away from policing to other forms of public safety (30 percent).
Overall, though, the survey shows that people would be open to a police and criminal justice reform option that’s broader than one the Senate might take up — if one comes to a vote at all.
Thus far, the prospects for a bipartisan agreement have been uncertain. While lawmakers have repeatedly said they’ve been making progress, they missed a May 25 deadline they set for a compromise to be reached and have yet to unveil a potential framework.
The poll was fielded between June 9 to 11 and includes 1,227 voters. It has a sampling margin of error of 3 percentage points.