How black and white Americans view police brutality

Linley SandersData Journalist
May 27, 2020, 5:30 PM UTC

George Floyd, a black man, was killed on Monday by a white police officer who handcuffed him and knelt on his neck for several minutes. In a video captured of Floyd’s death, he can be heard saying “I cannot breathe,” “my neck,” and “don’t kill me” as other police officers stand nearby.

The four officers involved have been fired, and Floyd’s family is calling for them to be charged with murder. In Minneapolis, protestors gathered in the street to protest the police brutality that led to Floyd’s death. It’s the latest in what seems like a familiar story.  

For decades, black Americans have died in disproportionate numbers compared with white Americans at the hands of police officers.

An YouGov survey of more than 40,000 Americans revealed the difference in how white Americans view police brutality compared to communities of color. Fewer than half of white Americans (46%) say that police officers tend to use too much force in their interactions; two in five (40%) white Americans use the correct amount.  

In contrast, four in five black Americans (80%) say officers use excessive force in their work. Most Asian Americans (60%), Hispanic Americans (58%), Mixed race Americans (57%), and Native Americans (54%) say police officers generally use too much force.  

About one in 11 black Americans (9%) say law enforcement is currently using the correct amount of force. That is scant in comparison to the number of white Americans (40%) who believe the same. About one-third of Americans (35%) — a plurality — say that officers tend to use the proper amount of force. 

Very few Americans (7%) believe that police officers should be using even greater force. However, white Americans (8%) are more than twice as likely as black Americans (3%) to believe that officers are using too little force. 

Contact uspress@yougov.com for crosstabs from this poll 

Methodology: 41,280 US Adults were asked: “Do you think police officers tend to use excessive force, too little force or about the right amount of force?” Response options: Far too much force, A bit too much force, About the right amount of force, A bit too little force, Far too little force, or don’t know. The responding sample is weighted to provide a representative sample of the United States and has been weighted for age, education, race, gender, and region. The survey was conducted May 2019 – May 2020.  

There were 33,875 White Americans, 2,475 Black Americans, 2445 Hispanic Americans, 744 Asian Americans, 641 Mixed Americans, and 382 Native Americans surveyed. 

Image: Getty