ELON POLL: N.C. voters split on police treatment of blacks, support public access to police videos
The survey of likely N.C. voters is the second this fall by the Elon University Poll, and relies upon Elon students as live interviewers of hundreds of voters.
In an exploration of attitudes about race and policing, the Elon University Poll has found likely voters split on how police treat blacks compared to whites, with 44 percent saying police treat blacks worse, and 42 percent saying police treat whites and blacks the same. Only 2 percent said police treat blacks better.
The questions were prompted by the recent fatal shooting of a black man by Charlotte police that has prompted ongoing protests of police treatment of minorities and calls for greater public access to videos recorded by police on body cameras and dash cameras. The survey found that 59 percent of respondents said protests after police shootings make matters worse while 27 percent said the protests lead to positive changes.
Turning to public access to video recorded by police during shootings,, the poll found broad support for making all police-recorded videos public, with 58 percent saying they should be available and 36 percent saying police can restrict access.
The live-caller, dual frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 799 registered voters was conducted from Sept. 27-30, 2016. Of those respondents, 660 said they are likely to vote in the November election. Survey results in this news release present responses from those self-identified registered voters who say they are likely to vote in the Nov. 8 election and has a margin of error of +/- 3.81 percentage points.
RACE AND POLICING
Questions looking at the police treatment of blacks and issues arising out of the Sept. 20 fatal shooting of Keith Scott by a Charlotte police officer show major divisions among racial and political party lines.
Among black voters, 82 percent said police treat blacks worse than whites while 33 percent of white voters had the same opinion. Looking at party affiliation, 72 percent of Democrats said police treated black worse than whites, compared to just 15 percent of Republicans.
“The racial gap in perceptions of events in Charlotte is striking,” Husser said. “Blacks and whites are more divided over police approval and views of protests than are Democrats and Republicans."
Nearly half — 47 percent — of black voters said protests following police-involved shootings lead to positive change over the long term, compared to 22 percent of white voters who had that view. Among Republicans, 84 percent said these protests make matters worse, while 39 percent of Democrats took that stance.
The release of police-recorded video following officer-involved shootings has been at the center of many protests, including those in Charlotte. North Carolina enacted a new law on Oct. 1 that allows for the release of those videos only by court order, which will restrict public access to the video.
The Elon University Poll found that black voters, Democrats and independents were all more likely to support broad public access to the videos. White voters were divided on the issue, with 49 percent supporting making all videos publicly available and 44 percent saying police can restrict access. Among Republicans, 58 percent said police should be able to restrict access while 37 percent said all videos should be publicly available.