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Support for more police funding on the rise in US

An increasing number of Americans support boosting funding for police as worries grow over violent crime.

(CN) — Americans’ views on police spending have shifted since the civil rights protests of summer 2020, with a new report finding that people across political and racial groups increasingly support more spending on local police forces.

At the height of protests against police brutality last year, the Pew Research Center reported that less than half of Americans (42%) believed that funding for police should stay at current levels. Fourteen percent said their budgets should be decreased a little and 12% believed they should be cut by a lot. On the opposite side, 20% said funding should increase by a little and 11% thought funding should go up by a lot. 

Just over a year later, this trend has reversed, with a smaller share of Americans saying funding should stay the same (37%), decrease by a little (9%) or decrease by a lot (6%), according to the latest Pew report. A growing number of respondents have taken the position that police funding should be boosted by a little (26%) or increased a lot (21%), with the latter group up double from the previous year.

Researchers see this significant change in attitudes toward police spending as a sign of Americans’ concern over violent crime. Pew reports that as of July 2021, 61% of U.S. adults believe that violent crime is a very big problem, outranking worries over the federal budget deficit, climate change, racism, economic inequality and illegal immigration.   

While racial, age and political groups differ on the subject of violent crime, they all showed more support for an increase in police funding. In June 2020, 33% of white, 22% of Black and 37% of Hispanic adults supported more police spending. As of last month, those numbers rose to 49% of white, 38% of Black and 46% of Hispanic respondents.

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody on Memorial Day 2020 spurred the widespread Black Lives Matter protests last year. Among Black Americans, 42% said police funding should be cut last year. However, that number is now down to 23%, with more Black respondents supporting either increased spending or keeping funding levels the same.

American between the ages of 18 and 49 have also shifted along this trend line. Support for increased police spending among younger respondents grew from 26% in 2020 to 36% this year. Among Americans age 50 and up, 59% currently support more funding for police, up from 37% a year ago. The increase is likely due to the drop in those who believe spending should stay the same (46% to 34%) and those who believe spending should be decreased (15% to 7%). 

The groups that display the largest divide on this issue are Republicans and Democrats. Sixty-one percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican believe that funding should be increased for police, up from 45% last year. Support for increased spending was driven primarily by a decrease in the share of Republicans who said funding should stay the same, which fell from 46% to 33%.

The percentage of Democrats who believe that spending should stay the same has shifted little, from 38% last year to 40% in 2021. But many respondents who identify as Democrats or lean Democratic have changed their position from decreasing police spending to increasing spending. Last year, 19% of Democrats believed spending should be increased and 41% said it should be lowered. Now 34% of Democrats say there should be an increase in spending, with an equal share still supporting a spending cut.

Notably, Black and Hispanic Democrats support increased spending on police more than white Democrats. Thirty-two percent of white Democrats believe that spending should be boosted with 25% saying it should shrink. The percentage of Black Democrats who believe there should be a spending cut is identical to that of white Democrats, but a higher percentage (38%) believes there should be a funding hike. Thirty-nine percent of Hispanic Democrats support more police spending, with only 22% calling for a cut.

The results of the report come from two separate surveys conducted in July and September, with over 10,000 U.S. adults participating.

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