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Voters Question Obama-Era Police Agreements, Agree With Sessions' Review

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a review of the reform agreements President Obama's Justice Department required of several urban police departments following high-profile police shootings. Voters think those agreements are unlikely to deter crime and agree with Sessions that they merit a second look.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 55% of Likely U.S. Voters think the new attorney general should review the agreements the Justice Department reached with those cities and change them if necessary. Just half as many (28%) think he should leave the standing agreements, known as “consent decrees,” alone. Seventeen percent (17%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Only 35% think it’s even somewhat likely the changes ordered by the Justice Department will reduce the level of crime in those cities, including just 11% who think it’s Very Likely. Fifty-three percent (53%) say the mandated changes are unlikely to reduce crime, with 19% who say it’s Not At All Likely. Twelve percent (12%) are undecided.

The Trump administration is now looking to postpone or change the agreements to ensure they don’t conflict with its goals for police reform and safety.

More Americans than ever say their local officers are doing a good job, and most don't think cops are to blame for the majority of shootings they are involved in.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely U.S. Voters was conducted on April 9-10, 2017 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.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of voters believe the level of crime in low-income inner city communities is a bigger problem in America today than police discrimination against minorities.

Whites and other minority voters feel more strongly than blacks that the new attorney general should review the agreements with the police departments, but blacks are more likely than the others to be undecided. There's general agreement among all three groups that the consent decrees are unlikely to reduce the level of crime in those cities. 

Those under 40 are more supportive of the existing agreements than their elders are but are only slightly more sure that they will lower the level of crime. 

Most Republicans (67%) and voters not affiliated with either major party (54%) think the attorney general should review the agreements and change them if necessary. Democrats agree by a much narrower 44% to 34% margin. However, Democrats are no more confident than the others that the existing agreements will deter crime. 

Among voters who believe Sessions should review the existing agreements and change them if necessary, 60% say they are unlikely to reduce crime. Those who want to leave the agreements as is are almost evenly divided on their potential impact.

The FBI insists that violent crime is down in America despite the jump in the murder rate in several major cities, but Americans aren’t buying it.

At the beginning of the year, President Trump introduced the possibility of sending federal law enforcement to Chicago if the city fails to stem its rising murder rate, but most voters think the feds should butt out of local crime.

As recently as two years ago, 56% thought the Justice Department was more concerned with politics than with making sure justice is done when it decides to investigate a local crime independent of the local police. Still, 50% at that time regarded the Justice Department as a protector of the legal rights of most Americans. Thirty-eight percent (38%) considered it a threat to those rights.

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

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