Minneapolis police

Poll: Americans Support Reform, Oppose Defunding Police

Damir Mujezinovic - Author

Jun. 12 2020, Updated 8:13 p.m. ET

A HuffPost/YouGov poll released on Friday found that most Americans support at least some form of law enforcement reform, but very few think police departments should be defunded. The poll was conducted in the wake of protests over George Floyd’s death.

Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, died of apparent asphyxiation after an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department was caught on video pinning him to the ground and kneeling on his neck. His death sparked nationwide protests, with activists calling on local governments to “defund the police.”

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The survey established that 48 percent of Americans believe the nation’s police system is “not too sound” or “not sound at all.” Thirty-seven percent think it needs some improvement and only 7 percent said that the police system requires no significant changes.

A plurality of Democrats and African Americans said that the system requires significant changes. Even Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are in favor of reforms, with only 11 percent saying the system requires no changes.

The idea of defunding police departments is not popular, according to the poll. The survey found that only 27 percent of Americans support such measures. Nearly all ideological and demographic groups oppose defunding the police. Only a majority of self-described liberals said that they would be in favor of doing so.

However, Americans agree on a number of issues. The vast majority of respondents — 72 percent of them — said that they support creating a federal registry for complaints against police officers. Sixty-nine percent are in favor of a national standard on the use of force and 68 percent said that the government should be able to charge officers for using excessive force.

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In addition, 59 percent said that so-called “qualified immunity” needs to be abolished and 67 percent believe that independents prosecutors should handle cases pertaining to the use of fatal force. Notably, 73 percent said that they are in favor of banning chokeholds.

Chokeholds have long been considered controversial, but Floyd’s death has made it a key issue for politicians and the public alike. Some states and local governments have already outlawed the practice.

Earlier this week, Democrats in the United States Congress unveiled a bill that would ban chokeholds on a federal level. Republicans are working on a bill of their own, but it remains unclear if it will seek to ban police from using such a move.

President Donald Trump is apparently conflicted on this issue. In an interview broadcast on Friday, Trump said that “the concept of chokeholds sounds so innocent, so perfect.”

“With that being said, it would be, I think, a very good thing that generally speaking it should be ended,” the president told Fox News, suggesting that chokeholds could be appropriate in certain circumstances.

Trump also said that the federal government may provide recommendations in terms of dealing with the notorious practice, but noted that the issue will largely be left up to local governments.


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