Statewide polling highlighted Tuesday by a multi-ethnic coalition of Los Angeles-based nonprofit organizations shows a consensus building, particularly among communities of color, that police reforms are necessary, as well as support for protests against police brutality.
The poll — co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Urban League, HOPE (Hispanas Organized for Political Equality) and CAUSE (Center for Asian American United for Self-Empowerment) — concludes that most Californians believe that recent protests of police brutality have brought people closer together and raised awareness of racial discrimination.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with leaders of other communities who have protested in support of racial justice and social equity,” said Michael Lawson, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League. “This poll is evidence of the broad support for necessary and meaningful change.”
The poll is the second in a series that began in February and surveyed 1,184 adults statewide with over-samples of Latinos, African Americans and Asian Pacific Americans to allow more detailed analysis.
About 55% of those surveyed said recent protests have brought California closer together and roughly the same percentage said civil unrest had brought people of different races closer together (56%) rather than farther apart (31%). Black and Latino people were most likely to take this positive view of protests.
At the same time, compared to earlier February polling, the number of people to rate race relations in the state as excellent or good fell 13 points, from 57% to 44%. Sponsors of the survey pointed to that shift as evidence of a growing awareness of systemic racism. This pessimistic view of race relations was slightly more pronounced among Latino residents, who in answer to other questions cited more financial distress related to COVID-19, and also among Asian respondents, who also noted more personal experience with discrimination.
“This series of polls gives us an unparalleled opportunity to track changes in Californians’ attitudes toward some of the most important issues of our time,” CAUSE Board Chair Charlie Woo said. “Because we were able to get a clearer picture of the feelings of the state’s communities of color, we can now outline a path forward that allows us to work together toward common goals and solutions.”
The survey found widespread support for police reforms related to additional training and accountability, but a higher demand for more dramatic measures — such as shifting funding away from law enforcement — among communities of color.
A 45% plurality of Californians support increased accountability and training of the police, according to the poll, while 32% would go further to shift significant funding and responsibilities away from law enforcement.
“The poll shows us that all groups agree that race matters,” HOPE CEO Helen Torres said. “Even though there are slight differences in perception and how each demographic group might approach each of these pressing issues, an increase in the awareness every single ethnic/racial group has had on discrimination and race relations goes to shows how the protest movement has already been successful in many ways.”
A split along racial lines is evident in the survey results. Black Californians are most likely — at 46% — to favor shifting budget dollars and responsibilities away from police. White Californians are least likely to endorse such reforms, with only 28% in favor.
Sponsors of the poll said there was still consensus building around a middle ground, with few survey respondents of any race falling to the extremes. Only 6% called for abolishing the police entirely and just 12% would leave law enforcement duties and funding as is.
“Overall what we can see from the poll is that diverse ethnic and racial groups in California are coming to the same conclusions on some of these issues and coalescing on how we need to respond to police reform and to the pandemic,” Torres said. “Communities of color are the majority in California, and state leadership should take heed of the issues we are coming together on.”
A broad majority — 58% — believe police use of force against Black Americans is not isolated, but a sign of systemic racism, according to the poll results.
“The majority of Californians and especially communities of color recognize police use of force as a sign of racism and want to see some type of reform in police departments. It’s less of a divisive issue than it is a unifying one,” Torres said.
The survey also identified rising concern about racism against Asian Pacific Americans. The percentage of APA community members who personally faced discrimination has grown significantly since February, while many more who did not directly encounter racism viewed race relations in the state more negatively.
“Each of our communities has endured discrimination at different times and in different ways,” Woo said. “The challenge of overcoming this hatred may present itself in the form of the coronavirus or immigration policy or police reform, but it is critical that our communities stand together in the face of such prejudice.”
In terms of the economic effects of the pandemic, Latinos reported that their financial situation has become worse since the COVID-19 outbreak at a slightly higher rate (42%) than other groups.
The poll also sought perspectives on reopening the economy and found that a majority of California residents are more concerned about lifting COVID-19 restrictions too quickly, and only 12% of people of color support a full re-opening of schools in particular. Twenty-one percent of white respondents said they would favor a full re-opening, most Latinos would opt for a partial reopening with the number of students limited at any one time and most Black Californians leaned toward full-time distance learning.
The poll was conducted online by Strategies 360, a Seattle-based polling and research firm. The questions and poll results can be accessed in full at www.strategies360.com/landing/californiapolling/.
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