Police Violence and Public Opinion After George Floyd: How the Black Lives Matter Movement and Endorsements Affect Support for Reforms

Co-authors: Cheryl Boudreau & Scott A. MacKenzie

Status: Published in 2022 in Political Research Quarterly

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Abstract: What factors shape public opinion about government solutions to address police violence? We address this question by conducting a survey in which respondents express their opinions about actual proposals to reform police practices. Within the survey, we randomly assign respondents to receive the positions of traditional advocates (Black lawmakers) and/or opponents (law enforcement) of police reform efforts. Our results reveal broad bipartisan support for the proposals, but that information about groups that support or oppose these proposals polarizes partisans’ opinions. However, Democrats and even Republicans who support Black Lives Matter (BLM) express high levels of support for the proposals regardless of the information they receive. These results suggest that partisanship in the mass public is not necessarily a barrier to police reform efforts. A bipartisan majority of the public supports meaningful reforms, and any polarizing effects of elite signals are muted by Democrats’ and Republicans’ support for BLM.

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