After the death of George Floyd in May 2020, national attention increased on police accountability for the excessive use of force, particularly in interactions with Black Americans. The Minneapolis police officer responsible for Floyd’s death, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of murder on April 20. Three-in-five Americans (60%) say that Chauvin’s conviction was fair, 22% say the outcome was unfair, and 18% had no opinion.
Yet Americans are mixed in their opinions about the impact of the Chauvin verdict on police accountability, with 55% saying that it will lead to more accountability, and 45% stating that there will be no change in accountability.
Those who say the Chauvin verdict was fair are more likely to indicate that the trial’s outcome will increase police accountability: 60% say that the verdict is likely to increase police accountability, while 40% say it is unlikely that police practices around excessive use of force will change. A substantial proportion of those who say the verdict was unfair (41%) also believe the verdict is likely to increase police accountability for excessive use of force. Yet, more than half (59%) say that police practices are unlikely to change because of the trial outcome.
Americans who say the verdict in the Chauvin trial was fair are the backbone of support for Black Lives Matter (57%), substantially higher than among the wider public (39%). By contrast, only 19% of those who had no opinion about the Chauvin trial outcome, along with just 9% of those who said that the verdict was unfair, have positive sentiments towards Black Lives Matter.
When it comes to the impact of the verdict on race relations, Americans are split. Although half (51%) expect nothing to change, 24% believe things will improve as a result, while an identical 24% suspect that things will only worsen.
Those who indicate the verdict was fair are more optimistic about the future of race relations in the US. More than one-third (36%) believe race relations will improve as a result of Chauvin’s conviction, compared to 24% overall. Just over half (55%) of those who believe that the Chauvin verdict was unfair say the trial’s outcome will worsen race relations in the US, while few (6%) in this group see the outcome as having a positive effect.
While Chauvin’s use of force on George Floyd was generally agreed to be inappropriate, it remains to be seen if his conviction will be a catalyst for long-term change.
Data from April 21-May 2, 2021. For more information about the YouGov Social Change Monitor, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.