Police seen as best at providing advice and guidance by the British public, but much less effective at protecting people online

Britons see police as effective at providing help and guidance however they aren't so good at protecting people online or investigating or preventing crime

The author(s)

  • Kully Kaur-Ballagan Public Affairs
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A NEW Ipsos MORI survey shows that two in five Brits (42%) say that local police are effective at providing advice and guidance to the public and a similar proportion say they are effective at responding when a member of the public calls (39%). But only around a quarter (23%) say they are effective at protecting those online. On most measures of effectiveness, there has been little change since 2017. 

However, people are now significantly less likely to say they would speak highly of the police in their local area compared with three years ago. In 2018, four in ten 10 (40%) Britons said they would speak highly of their local law enforcement, now only 29% feel the same way. Although, there has been no change in the proportion of people who would be critical of local police; 17% now compared with 18% in 2018. 

Three in ten say they would speak highly of local policeOn some aspects of local policing, ethnic minorities are more positive than White people; around half of ethnic minorities (53%) say that police in their local area are effective at providing advice to the public and responding when a member of the public calls (49%), compared with 40% and 37% of White people respectively. Ethnic minorities are also more likely than White people to see local police as being effective at preventing and investigating offending, as well as protecting those who are online.

Overall, the public is fairly positive about the characteristics of local police – around half say they are trustworthy (52%), competent (50%), fair in how they treat people (49%) and honest (49%). Around one in six think they are lazy (16%), sexist (15%) or racist (14%). 

However, ethnic minorities are significantly more likely to view police officers in their area as being racist than White people; three in ten (31%) ethnic minority people say that the police in their area are, on the whole, racist, compared to only one in 10 (12%) White people. 

Ethnic minorities are more likely to say police officers are racist and are more negative about them on other attributesEthnic minorities are also more likely than White people to view the police as being sexist (28% vs 13%) and lazy (27% vs 15%). White people, on the other hand, are more likely than ethnic minorities to say the police are trustworthy (55% vs 37%), honest (51% vs 35%) and fair in how they treat people (50% vs 38%). 

Kully Kaur-Ballagan, Research Director at Ipsos MORI said

On the whole people are positive about the police and how effective they are at policing although there is clearly less confidence in their ability to protect people online.
The findings also suggest that recent events, such as the Sarah Everard vigil, may have had an impact on the extent to which people are willing to talk highly about the police compared with a few years ago. And while comparisons between ethnic groups need to be treated with caution due to small sample sizes – there is some evidence to suggest that while ethnic minorities do view the police more negatively on some attributes, this negative perception doesn’t necessarily translate into them seeing the police as being less effective.  

Technical Details 

  • Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative online sample of 1,095 adults aged 16-75 years across Great Britain between 9-12 April 2021. Data are weighted to the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.
  • 140 ethnic minority people were interviewed as part of this survey, roughly in line with the general adult population but still a small sub-group for analysis, which means findings need to be interpreted with caution given the wider margin of error on a small sample size. 
     

The author(s)

  • Kully Kaur-Ballagan Public Affairs

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