Poll: 4 out of 5 Bay Staters Say Police Don’t Treat Black People Equally

Survey from Suffolk University/WGBH News/Boston Globe/Mass Live/Statehouse News addresses preferences for policing change & COVID-19 concerns

A large majority of Massachusetts residents (79 percent) say that George Floyd’s death under the knees of Minneapolis police is a sign of broader racial problems, according to a Suffolk University/WGBH News/Boston Globe/Mass Live/Statehouse News Service poll. Floyd’s May 25 death set off a series of protests in cities across the country in the weeks that followed.

Nearly 77 percent of residents said that, in general, police do not treat Black people as they treat others, and 85 percent said they strongly support or support the Black Lives Matter movement, while 10 percent opposed or strongly opposed it.

A majority would like to see the following policing changes:

  • Police should be licensed like doctors, nurses, and other professionals, with those licenses revocable for violations of statewide rules of conduct—82 percent
  • A police officer’s body camera footage should be public in all incidents where officers have used force—89 percent.
  • A person should be able to sue police officers individually based on their actions while on duty—75 percent.

When asked about the use of certain police tools and tactics used in lieu of lethal force to maintain order, a majority said the following should be prohibited: chokeholds (88 percent), military-style vehicles (63 percent), tear gas (56 percent), and rubber bullets (52 percent).

COVID-19

Evaluating Gov. Charlie Baker’s handling of the coronavirus public health crisis, 81 percent approved of his performance, while 14 percent disapproved. Fewer favored the governor’s management of the reopening as Massachusetts continues into Phase 2 (74 percent), while 20 percent disapproved of how Baker has directed the reopening in Massachusetts.

The poll shows that Massachusetts residents’ adherence to pandemic health advice has changed, with 44 percent saying they are very strict about social distancing, compared to 69 percent who said they were very strict about it in May. However, many more say they are still fairly strict; overall 83 percent of residents are now taking some level of precautions, compared to 94 percent in May.

Public activities

More people than previously feel comfortable participating in selected activities now or when they are allowed, but only 19 percent feel comfortable riding buses, subways, and commuter trains; 23 percent would feel comfortable attending a sporting event; and 23 percent would feel comfortable getting on a plane.

Meanwhile, only 33 percent would feel comfortable sending their children to day care or school. Respondents were almost evenly split on whether schools can reopen this fall in a way that keeps most kids and adults safe from the coronavirus, with 46 percent saying they cannot and 44 percent saying they can reopen without much risk.

Personal finances

Financial anxieties recorded in the previous poll have eased, with 36 percent saying that their regular incomes were diminished, down from 46 percent in the previous poll. Meanwhile, 48 percent said they were very or somewhat concerned about their financial situation, down from 56 percent in May.

Methodology

The statewide Suffolk University survey was conducted through live interviews of cell phone and land line users. All respondents indicated that they were residents of Massachusetts. The survey of 500 respondents was conducted June 18– June 21. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, dpaleologos@suffolk.edu.

Media Contact

Greg Gatlin
Office of Public Affairs
617-573-8428
ggatlin@suffolk.edu