A majority of American voters believe the need for police reform is even more urgent following the conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, according to a new poll by Vox / Data For Progress.
In a poll conducted the week after his conviction, 55 percent of likely voters said they felt this way, compared with 30 percent who said the urgency had not changed and 9 percent who said the urgency had not changed that there was less urgency after the trial. The results varied widely on a party-political level: 77 percent of Democrats said police reform was more urgent, and 50 percent of Independents and 34 percent of Republicans said the same thing.
Earlier, Axios reported that Congressional assistants believed the ruling had helped ease pressure on lawmakers to take more action in the short term, as it was the result that many activists and voters supported. “An acquittal or a lawsuit involving the former police officer would have sparked violence and days more protests – and additional cross-party pressure to react to criminal and police reforms, ”reported Alayna Treene and Kadia Goba from Axios. Large-scale demonstrations in this direction may have increased the public outcry. But as this survey shows, most people still view police reform as a major issue for lawmakers to address.
The poll was conducted as the legislature in Congress continued negotiations on police reform. It was conducted in two parts between April 21 and 23 with 1,438 likely voters and April 23 and 25 with 1,189 likely voters. Both surveys have an error rate of 3 percentage points.
As Gabby Birenbaum wrote for Vox, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), the leading Republican police reform negotiator, once again signaled optimism this Sunday about a possible deal on the issue. The main question of whether an agreement will be reached is how ambitious – or not – it actually is.
Police reform has stalled in Congress for a year
Congress has been here before. Just last year, Senate Democrats had rejected Republicans ‘proposal to be too tight, while GOP leaders argued that House Democrats’ legislation unnecessarily curtailed the legal protection of police officers.
This year Scott, along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) are pioneering the search for a bipartisan agreement. President Joe Biden has urged Congress to find consensus on police reform by May 25, the anniversary of Floyd’s death, a date Bass has also cited as a loose deadline.
Although the existing Democratic and Republican proposals vary widely, Scott hopes that a possible compromise on qualified immunity, a legal shield that makes it harder to sue cops for misconduct, could lead to an agreement. In his proposal, law enforcement agencies would be held liable for incidents of misconduct rather than individual officers, an attempt to prevent such behavior that does not involve all of the risk to the individual.
“How are we changing the policing culture?” Scott said during an appearance by Face the Nation on Sunday. “I think we do this by holding the employer responsible for the actions of the worker. We do that with doctors. We do that with lawyers. We do that in almost all of our industries. If we do that in law enforcement, the employer will change the culture. In contrast to one officer changing or not changing, all officers will change because the departments take on more of that burden. ”
The idea has already sparked some backlash from progressives, including Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), though Scott hopes he can eventually get both Democrats and Republicans on board.
An earlier Vox / DFP poll in April revealed that a majority of likely voters are in favor of police reforms, including bans on chokeholds and arrest warrants, grants for body cameras, and changes in qualified immunity, in some cases by a wide margin.
In the most recent poll, support for curbing qualified immunity has remained constant, if by no means overwhelming: 51 percent of respondents believe people should be able to more easily sue police officers for actions they take on duty to have.
The poll also found that 72 percent of people believed the chauvinist ruling was right, including 91 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of Independents, and 51 percent of Republicans. Polls conducted by other agencies after the trial also found strong support for some sort of reform effort, though the questions were broader in scope: In an ABC News / Washington Post poll, 60 percent of people said lawmakers were the police Hold accountable for mistreatment In a CNN poll, 53 percent of respondents said policing requires significant changes.
Ultimately, as these polls showed, most people expect lawmakers to do more after Congress has stalled on this issue in the past.