America still struggles to resolve the challenges of race and justice

Axios-Ipsos Hard Truths poll finds Black Americans are more likely to experience potentially dangerous interactions with the police

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
Get in touch

Washington, DC, May 23, 2021

One year after the death of George Floyd and the subsequent nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, America continues to struggle with resolving tensions between race and justice. Our new Axios-Ipsos Hard Truths polling uses robust samples of white, Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans to investigate attitudes towards the impacts of race, police reform, and differing lived experiences. Most noteworthy is the finding that in traffic stops, Black Americans are three times more likely than white Americans to report police officers unholstering a weapon.

Most Black Americans feel that 2020 had positive moments, but this poll also shows an overwhelming majority believe the country still has far to go to address racial inequality. At the same time, the gap on racial issues between white Republicans and Democrats appears to be considerable, indicating the ongoing challenge for meaningful change. Indeed, white Democrats are, in many cases, to the left of the Black community, regarding their attitudes on the subject, though their lived experience remains different. White Republicans, meanwhile, reject the idea that additional change is needed to promote racial equity or the idea that race gives certain people advantages or disadvantages.

1. This poll highlights the heightened exposure to dangerous police interactions Black Americans experience.

  • While Black Americans are less likely to experience being pulled over by the police (70%) than white Americans (83%), mostly due to lower rates of car ownership, they are much more likely to experience escalations with the police. Among those who have been pulled over…
    • Black Americans are more than three times more likely (14%) to report the police officer removed a weapon from its holster than a white person (4%). Hispanic Americans are twice as likely (9%) than whites to report an officer drawing a weapon.
    • Black Americans are almost twice as likely (40%) as white Americans (22%) to report additional officers arriving on the scene. Hispanic respondents are again more likely to experience this (31%) compared to white people.   
    • Black (28%) and Hispanic (25%) people are significantly more likely than white people (17%) to report being searched after a traffic stop.
  • Black Americans are also more likely to report they or someone in their immediate family has been arrested or detained by police (40%) compared to white (28%) or Hispanic (27%) respondents.

2. A year after the country experienced the largest civil rights protest in a generation, many Americans do not feel the country has made progress on race.

  • Only one in three Americans (35%) agree that the 2020 racial justice protests had a positive impact on society. A quarter (24%) have no opinion and two in five (40%) disagree with the statement.
  • Almost three in five (59%) Americans say the country needs to continue making changes to give Black Americans equal rights with white Americans.
  • Less than a quarter (23%) agree with the statement “America is not a racist country.”
  • Fewer than one in seven (13%) think that the treatment of Black Americans by police improved over the last year. Most (51%) think it is unchanged with a third (35%) saying it got worse.

3. Americans have a complicated view of policing, with support for reforms but little support for “defund the police.”

  • Only about a quarter (27%) of Americans support the “defund the police” movement with white Democrats (50%) being the most supportive.
  • However, a majority of Americans (57%) support diverting some police budget to community policing and social services, accomplishing much of the same objectives without the polarizing name.
  • Americans overwhelmingly support requiring independent investigations of police involved shootings (83%) and civilian police oversight boards (67%).
  • However, a clear majority of Americans (61%) also support increasing funding of the police.

4. Partisanship, particularly partisan difference among white Americans, define many of the dividing lines on racial issues.

  • On the impact of the 2020 protests, fewer than one in ten (8%) white Republicans believe the 2020 protests were positive. Compare that to three in five (60%) white Democrats, over half (52%) Black Americans, and just over a third (38%) of Hispanic Americans.
  • On if the country needs to continue to change to give Black Americans equal rights, one in five (19%) white Republicans agree compared to almost nine in ten (87%) white Democrats.
  • On if America is a not racist country, half of white Republicans (47%) agree compared to one in twenty (4%) white Democrats.

About the Study

This Axios/Ipsos Hard Truth Civil Rights & Social Justice poll was conducted April 28th to May 4th, 2021 by Ipsos using our KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,875 general population adults age 18 or older with oversamples among Black, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans.

The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households invited to join the panel are randomly selected from all available households in the U.S. Persons in the sampled households are invited to join and participate in the panel. Those selected who do not already have internet access are provided a tablet and internet connection at no cost to the panel member. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methodologies, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population.

The study was conducted in both English and Spanish. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status, household income, race/ethnicity by gender, race/ethnicity by age, and race/ethnicity by education. The demographic benchmarks came from 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) from the US Census Bureau with benchmarks for metropolitan status from the March 2020 Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS). The weighting categories were as follows:

  • Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18–29, 30–44, 45–59, and 60+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander Non-Hispanic, Other or 2+ Races Non-Hispanic, Hispanic)
  • Education (High School graduate or less, Some College, Bachelor and beyond)
  • Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)
  • Metropolitan status (Metro, non-Metro)
  • Household Income (Under $25,000, $25,000-$49,999, $50,000-$74,999, $75,000-$99,999, $100,000-$149,999, $150,000+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White/Other non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Hispanic) by gender (Male, Female)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White/Other non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Hispanic) by age (18-44, 45+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White/Other non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Hispanic) by education (Less than college grad, Bachelor and beyond)

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.52. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest Insights and Analytics company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs