The police shooting and death of Daunte Wright, and the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, have pushed issues of racial injustice in policing back into the headlines. As protests against police brutality continue across the country, do Californians think police in their community treat all racial and ethnic groups fairly?
In the March PPIC Statewide Survey, we found that a majority (54%) of California adults say police treat all racial and ethnic minorities fairly “almost always” (25%) or “most of the time” (29%). The survey was fielded from March 14–23, prior to the start of trial of Derek Chauvin and the shooting of Daunte Wright. In September 2020, after a summer of nationwide protests against the death of George Floyd, similar shares responded that all groups received fair treatment either almost always (24%) or most of the time (30%). However, the shares holding this view have declined from both February 2020 and May 2019 (30% almost always, 31% most of the time in both surveys).
Today, only 18% of African Americans believe all racial and ethnic groups are treated fairly by the police, compared to half or more whites (59%), Asian Americans (55%), and Latinos (52%). Prior to last summer, views of police treatment remained mostly steady from May 2019 to February 2020, although African Americans have consistently been far less likely than those in other racial/ethnic groups to believe that police treat all groups fairly. In the months after the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of police, a decline in positive perceptions of police treatment occurred among all racial/ethnic groups—with steeper drops among Asian Americans and African Americans—and views of fair treatment remain lower today.
Amid a broader racial reckoning in the US and an upsurge in violent attacks on individuals of Asian descent, we also asked Californians which is the bigger problem in the US today: “people seeing racial discrimination where it really does not exist” or “people not seeing racial discrimination where it really does exist.” A majority (58%) of Californians say the bigger problem is people not seeing racial discrimination where it really does exist, while 38% say the opposite.
Wide differences once again emerge across racial/ethnic groups. African Americans (83%) and Asian Americans (74%) are much more likely than whites (56%) and Latinos (50%) to say people not seeing racial discrimination is the bigger problem.
PPIC will continue to track the views of Californians on these important topics to help drive critical conversations about police brutality and enduring racial inequities.