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Americans' Respect for Police Surges

Americans' Respect for Police Surges

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 76% say they have "a great deal" of respect for the police in their area
  • Respect for law enforcement up since 2015 among whites and nonwhites
  • Majorities in major party, age groups report having respect for police

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Three in four Americans (76%) say they have "a great deal" of respect for the police in their area, up 12 percentage points from last year.

Americans' Respect for Police in Their Areas, 1965-2016

In addition to the large majority of Americans expressing "a great deal" of respect for their local police, 17% say they have "some" respect while 7% say they have "hardly any."

Gallup has asked this question nine times since 1965. The percentage who say they respect the police is significantly higher now than in any measurement taken since the 1990s and is just one point below the high of 77% recorded in 1967. Solid majorities of Americans have said they respect their local law enforcement in all polls conducted since 1965.

The latest figures, from Gallup's Oct. 5-9 annual poll on crime, show Americans' respect for police increased as the number of on-duty police officers who were shot and killed was on the rise.

Americans' confidence in police has also increased after falling to a 22-year low in 2015 and recovering in this year's poll. The latter was conducted in early June, before police officers were shot and killed in separate incidents in Texas and Louisiana.

Respect for Police Up Sharply Among Both Whites and Nonwhites

The increase in shootings of police coincided with high-profile incidents of law enforcement officials shooting and killing unarmed black men. Despite the flaring of racial tensions after these incidents, respect for local police has increased among both whites and nonwhites.

Four in five whites (80%) say they have a great deal of respect for police in their area, up 11 points from last year. Meanwhile, two in three nonwhites (67%) report having the same level of respect, an increase of 14 points from last year.

Since 2000, whites have been more likely than nonwhites to say they respect local law enforcement.

Americans' Respect for Police in Their Areas, by Race -- 2000-2016

Respect for Police Up Among Age and Party Groups in 2016

In addition to the increases across racial groups, respect for local law enforcement has increased among most political party, ideological and age groups. It has also improved among city, suburban and rural area residents. Liberals, rural residents and young adults saw the sharpest increases -- of 19 to 21 points -- from 2015 to 2016.

Americans' Respect for Police in Their Areas, by Group -- 2015 vs. 2016
How much respect do you have for the police in your area -- a great deal, some or hardly any?
  Oct 7-11, 2015 Oct 5-9, 2016 Change
  % "A great deal" % "A great deal" (pct. pts.)
Whites 69 80 +11
Nonwhites 53 67 +14
Conservatives 69 85 +16
Moderates 67 72 +5
Liberals 50 71 +21
Republicans 82 86 +4
Independents 60 75 +15
Democrats 54 68 +14
Large/Small city 61 68 +7
Suburb 71 82 +11
Town/Rural area 61 80 +19
18 to 34 50 69 +19
35 to 54 61 77 +16
55+ 77 81 +4

Respect for police remains highest among Republicans (86%) and conservatives (85%), but solid majorities of Democrats (68%) and liberals (71%) report the same level of respect.

Adults aged 55 and older (81%) are more likely than those aged 18 to 34 (69%) to have a great deal of respect for police.

About four in five Americans who say they live in a suburb (82%) or a town or rural area (80%) report having a great deal of respect for local police officers, higher than the percentage of those who live in small or large cities (68%) who say the same.

Bottom Line

The sharp increase over the past year in professed respect for local law enforcement comes as many police say they feel they are on the defensive -- both politically and for their lives while they are on duty -- amid heated national discussions on police brutality and shootings. After an officer was killed by a gunman in Harlem last year, then-New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton warned that the U.S. has fostered "an anti-police attitude that has grown" and that the national dialogue on police-community relations needs to discourage individuals who "exhibit anti-police behavior or attitudes."

Louisiana became the first state to pass a bill that treats acts targeted against police officers as a hate crime. Other states are discussing passing similar laws. It's unclear whether the spike in respect for police will have staying power or if it reflects mostly a reaction to the retaliatory killings against police officers last summer.

Although confidence in police varies among subgroups, majorities of all groups say they have a great deal of respect for their local police. And the percentage of national adults who say they have "hardly any" respect for local law enforcement remains small.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 5-9, 2016, with a random sample of 1,017 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.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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