Blacks differ from whites in America in that they have lower confidence in the police and view the criminal justice system as being discriminatory against minorities, according to Gallup's most recent data on the issue.
The Gallup report, which comes at a time when the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., has thrust the issue of race and discrimination back into the national spotlight, identifies five alarming trends regarding the differences in perception.
Simply put, Gallup reports that blacks are more likely to be distrustful of the police and have a dimmer view of the courts than whites, signaling that more needs to be done to address the concerns of minorities in the U.S.
Here's a run down of what Gallup found. The report pulls together data collected from 2011-2014:
5. Confidence in the police
Approximately 59 percent of white respondents have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police, while only 37 percent of blacks say the same.
This is remarkable considering that Gallup found in a separate report that police are among the three most trusted institutions in the United States, right up there with the military and small businesses.
But for African-Americans, the police rank behind organized religion, the medical industry, President Obama and even the news.
“This racial gap in confidence in the police has been evident in the data throughout the past decade and a half that Gallup has been measuring these trends on an annual basis,” Gallup noted.
4. Honesty and ethics of police officers
Roughly 59 percent of white respondents say they believe police officers behave honestly and ethically, while only 45 percent of African-Americans say they agree.
“Gallup data on a different question — asking Americans to rate the honesty and ethics of various professions — show a significant black-white divide in views of police officers, although the gap is not as large as the overall confidence gap in police as an institution reviewed above,” Gallup reported. “In Gallup data from 2010-2013, 59 percent of whites say the honesty and ethics of police officers is very high or high, compared with 45 percent of blacks.”
3. Perceptions of treatment by police
Black men between the ages 18 and 34 are more likely than any other polled group to say they believe they've been unfairly treated by the police in the last 30 days, according to Gallup data collected from 2013.
“This was one of five situations asked about in the survey, and incidence of unfair treatment by the police was more common than any of the other four among 18- to 34-year-old black men. The other situations measured included unfair treatment while shopping, while dining out or in attendance at theaters or other entertainment venues, at work, and while getting healthcare,” the report said.
Blacks ages 35 to 54 were also more likely to claim that they have been unfairly treated by the police, with 22 percent saying they had been harassed.
On a brighter note: “[T]he reports among all blacks of having received unfair treatment by police was lower last year than in most of the previous years. Seventeen percent of all blacks said they had been treated unfairly in 2013, down from a high of 25 percent in 2004.”
2. Black-white differences in views of the need for new civil rights laws
African Americans feel that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in regards to lawmakers passing legislation that protect civil rights: Approximately 53 percent of blacks surveyed by Gallup say it's necessary for new civil rights laws to be passed, while only 17 percent of whites say the same.
1. Views of discrimination against blacks in the criminal justice system
Although 80 percent of white respondents say they think the disproportionately high number of incarcerated blacks is due to issues other than discrimination, blacks are divided on the issue.
“The disproportionality of black men's contact with the criminal justice system has become a focal point of the debate that has arisen out of the Ferguson police shooting incident. In 2011, U.S. Department of Justice statistics indicate that more than 3 percent of all black males were in prison, compared with 0.5 percent of white males and 1.2 percent of Hispanic males. Other estimates find that one in three black males can expect to be in prison at some point in their lifetime, compared with one in 17 white men,” Gallup reported.
The takeaway, according to Gallup's data, is basically this: There is a real and serious concern among blacks in America that much of the justice system is biased against them. It's an issue that requires addressing, and the sheer number of black respondents who believe this to be the case suggests there's more than coincidence at play.