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Bigger Problem - Racist Cops or Inner City Crime?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The fallout continues in Ferguson, Missouri, following a Justice Department report accusing the city government of a widespread pattern of racial discrimination. But in most inner city communities, is racism the real problem?

Not according to 70% of Likely U.S. Voters who say the level of crime in low-income inner city communities is a bigger problem in America today than police discrimination against minorities. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 20% think police discrimination is the bigger problem. Ten percent (10%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

There’s a sharp racial difference of opinion on this question, however. Fifty-six percent (56%) of black voters believe police discrimination against minorities is the bigger problem. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of whites and 54% of other minority voters disagree and view inner city crime as the bigger issue.

But then 82% of black voters think most black Americans receive unfair treatment from the police. White voters by a 56% to 30% margin don’t believe that’s true. Other minority voters are evenly divided.

Twenty-two percent (22%) of black Americans and other minority adults think most cops are racist, compared to just nine percent (9%) of whites. 

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on March 2-3, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of all voters think the Justice Department is more concerned with politics than with making sure justice is done when it decides to investigate a situation like the one in Ferguson. Thirty-four percent (34%) say the Justice Department is more interested in making sure justice is done, but 10% more are not sure.

The majority of voters in most demographic categories see the level of crime in low-income inner city communities as a bigger problem than police discrimination against minorities.

Voters under 40 feel more strongly than their elders that police discrimination is the bigger problem, though.

Eighty-eight percent (88%) of Republicans and 74% of voters not affiliated with either major political party see crime in inner city areas as the bigger concern. Democrats agree but by a much narrower 49% to 41% margin.

Even 57% of voters who believe the Justice Department is primarily interested in making sure justice is done when it investigates cases like Ferguson think the level of inner city crime is the bigger problem. Of course, that compares to 80% of those who think the department is more concerned with politics.

Few Americans expected white police officer Darren Wilson who killed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson last summer to be charged with murder, and most opposed the Justice Department trying to prosecute him after that. Wilson was not charged by a local grand jury, and the Justice Department also failed to find any civil rights violations by the police officer.

Americans are solidly convinced that their local police are their protectors and give them high marks for the job they do. Most also believe deaths that involve policemen are usually the fault of the suspect, not the cop.

Yet 84% of blacks and 56% of other minority voters consider the justice system unfair to black and Hispanic Americans, while 54% of whites view the system as fair to these minorities.

Americans in general agree, however, that race relations in this country have taken a decided turn for the worse.

Only eight percent (8%) of voters think race relations are better since President Obama’s election in 2008, but unlike most questions dealing with race, blacks and whites don’t disagree much on this one. 

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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