Most Americans See Law and Order as a Major Problem

A protester stands in a cloud of tear gas near a burning garbage truck outside the Kenosha County Courthouse, in Kenosha, Wis., Aug. 24. Until the police shooting of Jacob Blake, the bedroom community of Kenosha has been largely untouched by the level of demonstrations that had been seen in nearby Milwaukee and Chicago since the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

(CN) — Most Americans say maintaining law and order in the United States has become a major problem and that President Donald Trump’s handling of the protests sparked by the deaths of George Floyd and others has only made the situation worse, according to a new poll.

As protests and demonstrations continue to play out across the nation over racial injustice and the deaths of people of color at the hands of police, a Monmouth University poll released Monday reports that 65% of Americans feel that upholding law and order has become a serious issue. A quarter of Americans say that it’s only a minor problem while just 8% contend that it’s not a problem at all.

Breaking these numbers down by race and party affiliation shows that some groups are much more likely to believe that the issue of maintaining law and order is a major one.

According to Monday’s poll, nearly 8 in 10 Republicans and independents who lean Republican believe that maintaining law and order is a major problem. And people of color who are not Republicans are much more likely than white non-Republicans to feel this way.

“It appears we are looking at a divergence between politics and experience. Among white Americans, partisanship creates a clear dividing line on whether law and order is a problem,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, with the release of the poll. “But for people of color, partisan identity does not seem to be driving their opinion on this issue.”

When asked which presidential candidate is best equipped to handle the issue of law and order in the United States, respondents gave a slight edge to Biden. Monday’s poll reports that 52% of voters say they are confident that Biden can maintain law and order moving forward if he claims victory this November, while 48% of voters feel the same way about Trump.

Where Trump’s numbers take a notably negative turn is about how he has responded to the recent protests over police brutality and the killing of Black citizens. A majority of Americans (61%) say they think Trump’s response has made the situation worse, while just 24% say they believe he’s made it better — numbers that are virtually unchanged from earlier this summer.

Nearly 90% of those who are not Republicans say they feel Trump has made the protest situation worse, feelings that are shared by overwhelming majorities of all ethnic groups. The only group to believe that Trump has improved the situation is Republicans and Republican-leaners, with 46% of them maintaining that Trump has made the situation better and 30% believing he’s made it worse.

A good portion of voters (45%) think Biden would have managed the protest situation better than Trump if he was president. Nearly 3 in 10 Americans think Biden would have done worse than Trump while 23% say they think Biden would have managed about the same.

Nearly 75% of non-Republicans say they think Biden would have done better than Trump on this issue and just over half of Republicans and those that lean Republican think he would have done worse.

Regardless of who Americans think can better manage the protests, most agree the underlying issues driving the demonstrations are serious ones.

Monday’s poll reports that 65% of Americans think that racial and ethnic discrimination in the United States is a major problem, while just 18% say they don’t believe it’s a problem at all. Another 16% of Americans concede that discrimination is a problem but believe that it’s not a particularly large one. As has been the case before, GOP voters and those that lean GOP are less likely than their counterparts across the aisle to see discrimination as a major issue.

But Americans believe there will be improvements in race relations in the future. Around 40% of Americans think that race relations are likely to improve as a result of the spotlight that has been placed on the issues of race and police violence in recent months. Another 29% say they are very hopeful regarding the future of race relations in general while 54% say they are at least somewhat hopeful.

The poll also sought to gauge respondents’ feelings regarding racial integration efforts in the suburbs, an issue that got some airtime during the GOP convention. Roughly three-quarters of Americans say they think having racially integrated neighborhoods in their area is important to some extent, though another 40% say they are worried that such efforts could lead to more crime and lower property values.

Murray said that while these numbers do not suggest that most voters were influenced by GOP talking points that sought to cast the future and safety of American suburbs in doubt, there may be just enough voters worried about the subject to play a role come November.

“Another message coming out of the Republican convention was that the suburbs were under attack. This does not seem to be a message with broad-based appeal, but it could have an impact on the margins in states that are close,” said Murray.

Monday’s poll of 867 individuals contained a 3.3% margin of error.

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