Partisanship and Public Perceptions of Police

Co-authors: Cheryl Boudreau & Scott A. MacKenzie

Status: Working paper

Abstract: Research has long examined the strong influence a person’s race has on their perceptions of the police. As police shootings of unarmed black men have frequently dominated U.S. headlines since 2014, political elites have increasingly commented on these incidents and acted to try to prevent future shootings. Yet, despite the increased role of political elites in the debate over police violence, there is little scholarship examining what role partisanship may have on public perceptions of the police. We conduct an experiment to assess how partisanship, in conjunction with race and other variables, affects public perceptions of the police. Our results provide strong evidence that partisanship, even more than race, is a main driver of how the public assesses blame for police shootings, whether the public trusts the police, and what policies about the police are supported by the public.

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