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Major poll says 94% of Americans want criminal justice reform

Weeks of nationwide and global demonstrations after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have had their effect, according to a new AP-NORC poll. The vast majority of Americans now see the need for criminal justice reform. And, a large majority (69%) now says that the system needs either a complete overhaul or major changes.

Black people were still more likely than whites to say so, and to emphasize the need for significant changes. For example, 92% of Black respondents said the criminal justice system needs a complete overhaul or major changes, while only 65% of white respondents said so.

The opinions also varied by political affiliation. 88% of Democrats said the system needs a complete overhaul or major changes, while only 46% of Republicans said so. Nevertheless, while 47% of Republicans argued for only minor changes, 94% of Republicans agreed that some sort of change needs to be made.

"So now what's happened is, I'll be honest," a 38-year-old Black person told the Associated Press, "white people are seeing it and saying, 'This is wrong.'"

He may be right. A 33-year-old white person agreed that she had previously had the luxury of ignoring the problem.

"I had never really given much thought to police use of force. I'm white. I've never had a bad encounter with a police officer," she told the AP. "The last few months have brought to light more of this for me, and now I am educating myself."

Specific policing reforms gain support

Large majorities of Americans overall strongly favor certain policing reforms, including:

  • Required use of body cameras: 71%
  • Establishing clear standards for use of force: 67%
  • Requiring officers to report peer misconduct: 64%
  • Prosecuting officers who use excessive force: 63%
  • Penalizing officers for racially biased policing: 60%

Surprisingly, only about half (46%) of respondents favored or strongly favored a reduced focus on policing low-level offenses, even though 80% of all state prosecutions are for misdemeanors. And, only 25% favored or strongly favored reducing funding for law enforcement. Democrats were more likely to support defunding the police at 41%, while Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed, according to the Associated Press.

The AP also reports that most Americans believe that the police more likely to use deadly force against Black people and that Black people are generally treated less fairly.

What reforms do you support? Do you believe we need a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system? Major changes? Minor changes? No changes?

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