Personal experience with crime and news source drive opinion on police reform

Following the growing importance of crime and gun violence for the country, we examine how personal experience and news source drive how Americans feel about law and order and police reform.

The author(s)

  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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July 13, 2021- Following the growing importance of crime and gun violence for the country, we examine how personal experience and news source drive how Americans feel about law and order and police reform. At the same time, many of America’s remote workers are beginning to think about other pre-pandemic worries (namely, the office).

As crime grows in importance for Americans, a recent USA Today/Ipsos poll unpacks how Americans feel about law and order and police reform:

Meanwhile, Americans working remotely are bracing for back to the office:

Personal experience with violent crime in the past year linked to favoring police reform

Americans are nearly split on whether the country should spend more on police or focus on reforms, like shifting funding to social services or getting guns off the streets, USA Today/Ipsos polling finds. That changes when looking at people who have personally encountered violent crime or theft in the past year.

People who either have immediate family members or have personally experienced violent crime in the past year favor reforming the police over expanding police budgets. Personal or familial experience with burglary or theft in the past year was also associated with backing police reforms over expanding police budgets.

Still, a sizeable minority (about one in three) across all groups feel that we should spend more on police and let them do their job as they see fit; partisanship largely drives these views.

With crime growing in importance for the public and politicians, centering people personally impacted by the uptick in crime over the past year shows the fault lines Americans understand the personal and political issues influencing their lives.

News consumption influences how likely Americans are to believe reports about police brutality

A plurality of Americans believe that media reports of police brutality and racism – and, to a lesser extent, violent crime – have been exaggerated. News consumption is a major driver of how accurate Americans perceive these reports to be, according to USA Today/Ipsos polling.

Americans who tune into FOX News and other conservative online news outlets are much more likely than the rest of the general public to believe that media reports about police brutality and racism are exaggerated, at 75% versus 46% overall. People who do not get their news from any of the major sources are in the same camp, with 63% of this group expressing skepticism about reports of police brutality.

Americans are a little less likely to believe that media reports of violent crime are exaggerated, and views on this matter are less divergent by news consumption. Half who primarily get their news from conservative sources believe that reports about violent crime are overstated, compared to one in three who look to outlets like CNN, MSNBC or the major newspapers as their primary source of news.

People who are happy to return to the office are more likely to feel comfortable with shaking hands and hugging

As many empty offices prepare to welcome back remote employees, how workers feel about being in person is closely tied to their comfort with physical interaction, Newsy/Ipsos polling finds.

Among those who are happy to return to the office, most are now comfortable shaking hands (79%) with people or hugging them (74%). Only about half of the people who are indifferent or unhappy about returning to the office feel that same level of comfort with this type of physical touch.

With some Americans still wary of physical touch, back-to-office will require an additional layer of communication as remote workers negotiate this new phase of the pandemic.

Not everyone is comfortable with being indoors at work without a mask

As Americans return to work in growing numbers, they will enter an environment where mask wearing is not always a requirement. Newsy/Ipsos polling shows while a majority of Americans (69%) are now comfortable with not wearing a mask while indoors among the general public, discomfort with this is correlated with being less excited about the prospect of returning to in-person work.

Indeed, those happiest about returning to work also tend to be the least concerned about being in public without a mask. Conversely, those more hesitant about returning to in-person work tend to be less comfortable with being in enclosed, public spaces without a mask.

Fewer men now want to return to the office full time

As back to the office draws near for many workers who have been remote throughout the pandemic, it seems some Americans are growing less enthusiastic about the prospect of reuniting with their office space.

Analysis of the Ipsos Consumer Tracker finds notable differences by gender here. At the beginning of March, half of the men (53%) who were mostly or entirely working from home wanted to return to the office full time. By the end of June, only 39% of men felt the same way. Similarly, the share of women interested in returning to the office occasionally also fell over that same timeframe.

These changes may partially be because some people have already returned to work since March, meaning that the respondent pool is now different.

The author(s)

  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs

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