Americans split on the right to protest versus law and order

New USA Today/Ipsos poll shows deep racial, partisan divides on trust in law enforcement and views over George Floyd's killing.

The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Director, US, Public Affairs
  • Sara Machi Research Analyst, Public Affairs
Get in touch

Washington, DC, June 10, 2020 –A new USA Today/Ipsos poll finds that Americans are split on whether law and order or the right to protest is the most important thing to protect right now. Moreover, there are significant racial and political divides in the level of trust in groups to promote justice and equal treatment for people of all races, characterization of George Floyd’s death, and attitudes toward protests near the White House last week.

Detailed Findings   

Most Americans say the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis was murder, though views vary by race and political identification. Two-thirds of Americans support the protests and demonstrations following his death.

  • Sixty percent say George Floyd was murdered, with 28% saying it was negligence on part of the officer.
  • Though most say Floyd’s death was murder, significant differences exist between white and black Americans (55% and 83%, respectively), along with Republicans and Democrats (46% and 75%, respectively).
  • Sixty-five percent of Americans support the protests and demonstrations taking place across the country following George Floyd’s death, but more Republicans oppose than support them (44% support, 50% oppose). Democrats are nearly twice as likely to support the protests when compared to Republicans (84% vs. 44%, respectively), and white Americans are less likely than black Americans to support them (58% vs. 93%, respectively).

More think the protests have been mostly peaceful rather than mostly violent, but Americans are split on if preserving law and order or the right to protest is most important.

  • Over half of Americans (54%) think the protests and demonstrations have been mostly peaceful, while 36% say they have been mostly violent. Nearly three-quarters of Democrats (73%) believe they have been peaceful, while more Republicans say they’ve been mostly violent rather than peaceful (38% peaceful, 54% violent).
  • Forty-five percent say law and order is the most important thing to ensure, even if it means limiting peaceful protests. Virtually the same number, 44%, say the right to protest is the most important thing to ensure, even if it means there are some incidents of violence. White Americans and Republicans are more likely to think law and order is most important (51% and 69%, respectively), while black Americans and Democrats see more importance in preserving the right to protest (67% and 65%, respectively).

Trust in certain individuals’ and groups’ ability to promote justice and equal treatment for people of all races is also split across race and partisanship. Most Americans think President Barack Obama would best handle the current civil unrest.

  • The U.S. military garners the most trust for all Americans (72%), following by 60% who trust Black Lives Matter. President Trump garners the least amount of trust to promote justice and equal treatment among all Americans (38%).
  • There are significant differences in trust by race. The biggest differences are among Black Lives Matter, protesters (with black Americans more inclined to trust these groups than white Americans), and local police and law enforcement (trust is higher among white Americans).
Trust in groups/individuals
  • Forty-five percent of Americans think President Barack Obama would best handle the current civil unrest in the country, with another 20% saying President Trump would handle it the best. President Obama is the most popular choice among white Americans (38%), black Americans (73%), and Democrats (75%), but Republicans are most likely to prefer President Trump (43%).

Most Americans (87%) support the peaceful protests outside the White House that took place around when President Trump appeared at a nearby church on June 1. Less than 1 in 10 support the violence and damage to nearby properties that followed the event (9%).

  • Of the 88% of Americans who have heard about the protests and clashes that took place near the White House last Monday, a large majority (83%) believe that law enforcement fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters.
  • Republicans are far more likely to support deploying military forces to other states following this event (68% vs. 41% overall), arresting protesters (67% vs. 41% overall), and firing rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd (50% vs. 30% overall).

The USA Today story can be found here

The USA Today story covering Ipsos's tracking of protests across the USA in the wake of George Floyd's death can be found here

About the Study   

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between June 8-9, 2020, on behalf of USA Today. For this survey, a sample of 1,113 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The sample includes 757 white Americans, 121 black Americans, 422 Republicans, and 494 Democrats.

The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’ online panel (see link below for more info on “Access Panels and Recruitment”), partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling (see link below for more info on the Ipsos “Ampario Overview” sample method) and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing a sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2016 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Posthoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education.     

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online non-probability polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=1,113, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=+/-4.8 percentage points).

The poll also has a credibility interval of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points for white Americans, plus or minus 10.2 percentage points for black Americans, plus or minus 5.4 percentage points for Republicans, and plus or minus 5.0 percentage points for Democrats.

For more information on this news release, please contact:     

Chris Jackson 
Senior Vice President, US   
Public Affairs   
+1 202 420-2025   
chris.jackson@ipsos.com     

Mallory Newall 
Director, US   
Public Affairs   
+1 202 420-2014   
mallory.newall@ipsos.com     

About Ipsos   

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research 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 www.ipsos.com          

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The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Director, US, Public Affairs
  • Sara Machi Research Analyst, Public Affairs

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