Public Opinion
Is Black Lives Matter Backfiring?

If Colin Kaepernick’s protest strategy is working, it hasn’t showed up yet in public opinion polling. Respect for local law enforcement soared over the last year to its highest level since 1968, according to a new survey from Gallup:

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Interestingly, changing opinions among Democrats and independents drove most of the increase. Republican respect for police, already overwhelming, ticked up only slightly, from 82 to 86 percent. Meanwhile, Democratic support surged from 54 to 68 percent; among independents, from 60 to 75. The uptick was more pronounced among nonwhites than whites.

The high levels of support for police registered in the survey aren’t necessarily incompatible with the message of the Black Lives Matter movement, and there have been indications that public opinion is swinging in the movement’s direction on some issues related to criminal justice reform. At the same time, if the movement had been successfully selling the public on the argument that law enforcement inflicts gratuitous violence against minorities on a large scale, we probably wouldn’t expect such a marked pro-police turn in the polls.

2015 Gallup polling in the wake of high-profile police shootings seemed to show public support for law enforcement slipping. But public attitudes have swung in the opposite direction over the past year, perhaps because of concern about rising urban crime rates as well as civil unrest in places like Charlotte and Dallas (where seven police officers were slain).

Donald Trump, and the Jacksonian coalition he activated, are likely to go down in defeat on Election Day. But the law-and-order impulse will remain an important force in our politics.

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