The widespread protests in response to the murder of George Floyd represent the best of America, but I’m no less impressed and heartened by the breadth of popular support they enjoy.  According to a Reuters poll, 64 % of adults say they are sympathetic to the protesters; just 27 % say they are unsympathetic.  And, depending on which poll you look at, only 33% or 40% approve of Trump’s handling of the situation, vs. 55% who disapprove.   These results are broadly consistent with another poll that asked people whether they thought violence against police was a more or less important problem than police violence against the public.   By a margin of 55-30%, respondents said the police were the more serious purveyors of violence.  (Among whites the margin was less, but still solid—50-35%.)

I found these poll results pleasantly surprising because I have long believed that America—white America, that is—loves cops, a love that at least in part reflects the racism that pervades our society.  It’s the cops, after all, who keep “those people” down and in their place.  So, I’m happy to be proved wrong.  Maybe I was just behind the times–a number of other studies have pointed to a positive evolution of white attitudes toward race in recent decades.  And I’m happy that my initial concern—that Donald Trump might be able to exploit the unrest to his political advantage—has so far proved overly pessimistic. A significant plurality if not a majority of Americas recognize Trump as a divisive figure, a cause of, rather than a solution to, disorder.  That could change with events.  Lest we let our optimism get out of hand, it is well to note still another poll result, in which a solid majority (58%) of Americans support the use of the military to quell urban violence should it become necessary.  Still, as of now, my opinion of the American people has gone up a few notches from where it was only a couple of months ago.


  1. Art Schmidt June 6, 2020 at 2:04 pm

    “Lest we let our optimism get out of hand, it is well to note still another poll result, in which a solid majority (58%) of Americans support the use of the military to quell urban violence should it become necessary.”

    Why should the 58% figure be cause for pessimism? In effect, the polling question is, “Who would you rather have responding to demonstrations by black citizens — the well-integrated US military or the sadistic cops who are doing it now?” This “solid majority” may be just as encouraging as the other polls that you report.

    • tonygreco June 6, 2020 at 3:15 pm

      Yes, it’s hard to interpret that 58% majority opinion. It may well be, as you suggest, that the military would be more restrained than the cops. We can’t know, though, if that’s the way the respondents to the poll were thinking about it.

      • Jeffrey Herrmann June 7, 2020 at 5:59 am

        The poll question was poorly formulated, ending with “should it become necessary.”
        You might be able to get 58% of the respondents to concur that bringing in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would be a good idea, “should it become necessary.”
        After all, Dudley Do-Right has a higher approval rating than tRump.

        • tonygreco June 7, 2020 at 10:19 am

          My bad: the question didn’t actually include the phrase “should it become necessary.” That was my incorrect inference from my reading of news reports of the poll result. The actual wording of the question was as follows:

          “Would you support or oppose cities taking the following measures to address protests and demonstrations in dozens of U.S. cities in response to the death of George Floyd?

          Calling in the U.S. military to supplement city police forces.”

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