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Support for Uprisings Against Police Brutality Jumped 20 Points in One Week

A new poll shows more than 8 in 10 Americans say changes are needed in how policing is conducted in the U.S.

Demonstrators sing "Lean On Me" near the White House during a protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd, on June 3, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

New polling data released on Tuesday demonstrates widespread support in favor of uprisings happening in cities across the United States in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd two weeks ago.

Floyd, a Black man, was killed when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25 as Floyd pleaded repeatedly that he could not breathe and other officers refused to intervene. An autopsy later revealed that Floyd was killed due to asphyxiation.

Following Floyd’s death, cities across the nation saw uprisings from protesters fed up with racist police violence. Results from a Washington Post/Schar School poll, conducted between June 2 and 7, finds an overwhelming number of Americans support those demonstrations.

Regarding Floyd’s death itself, only 29 percent of those polled said it was an isolated incident. Meanwhile, 69 percent said his killing was indicative of broader problems in policing when it comes to the treatment of Black Americans in the U.S.

Those views reveal a striking change from how Americans felt just a few years ago. In 2016, for example, only 60 percent said Black Americans’ deaths at the hands of police were signs of bigger problems, according to a Pew Research survey. And in 2014, only 43 percent held that view, with a majority (53 percent) saying such deaths were isolated incidents, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll.

The poll released on Tuesday found that support for the uprisings currently taking place across the country was strong, with 74 percent of Americans backing them, and just 25 percent saying they opposed the demonstrations.

Interestingly, respondents were split on whether they’d describe these events as “mostly peaceful” or “mostly violent,” with both views receiving 43 percent in the poll. But most did not view the incidents that they characterized as violent as being caused by the protesters themselves.

Only 10 percent of respondents said as much, while a greater number, 14 percent, blamed police for violence seen at demonstrations. By a wide margin (66 percent), Americans viewed the violence that has occurred at these events as happening due to others acting irresponsibly during them, the poll found.

Overall, the poll noted that respondents feel changes to policing practices are sorely needed, with 81 percent of those surveyed saying more reforms need to come about. The poll did not ask specifically what kinds of reforms were needed, or for people’s views on defunding police.

Support for the recent uprisings seen in cities across the nation seems to be expanding. Earlier in June, a Morning Consult poll demonstrated that 54 percent of Americans either strongly supported or somewhat supported the protests, with just 22 percent opposed to them.

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