A majority of Central Valley voters view police use of force during the Black Lives Matter protests as appropriate and a majority do not view the issue of police violence as a systemic problem, according to a recent study.
Fifty-two percent of voters surveyed in the Central Valley say they approve of police’s use of force during the protests, while another 57 percent say police violence is due to a handful of “bad cops” rather than underlying, systemic racial biases, according to a Criminal Justice and Policing Issue survey, sponsored by The California Endowment by FM 3 Research.
These results are significantly different than the results from the same survey conducted in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Voter surveyed in the Bay Area and Los Angeles both view police use of force during the protests as inappropriate.
“Given the political differences between the Central Valley and the rest of California, the differences were not that surprising,” said Dave Metz, a staffer with FM 3 Research. “Unfortunately, views of police reform issues have become very partisan, with Democrats offering more support and Republicans more divided. Because the Central Valley is more divided politically than other parts of California, which are more heavily Democratic, it meant that support for many of the reform proposals we tested in the poll was somewhat less broad.”
Metz said there is no majority consensus about whether problems with policing are results of system bias or simply the actions of a “few bad police officers.”
“Second, the partisan differences I describe above also have an impact – the region has more conservative voters than other parts of California, and conservative voters tend to be more skeptical about the role of systemic racism,” Metz said. “Third, the Central Valley tends to have smaller communities and police departments than is the case on the coast, which likely means that the dynamics of police/community relations are somewhat different.”
Although Central Valley voters do not view police brutality as a systemic problem, a majority of Central Valley voters support recent protests against police misconduct. About three-quarter of the voters say there have been protests calling for police reform in their community and 57 percent say they support the protests.
Over three in five voters think protestors are peacefully trying to speak out against the mistreatment of African Americans and people of color by police, while only 30 percent believe that most protestors are not sincerely committed to speaking out and are looking for opportunities to loot and destroy property, the survey results say.
The survey results also show 25 percent of the survey Central Valley voters view police abuse and brutality as a serous problem. Instead, economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and homelessness are the top concerns for Central Valley voters.
The majority of Central Valley voters opposes the idea of “defunding the police” when presented without further explanation, but also favors re-allocating police resources to preventive strategies. Only 20 percent support “defunding the police” and 73 percent oppose it when the term is introduced with no further explanation.
Featured Photo: Hundreds of people protested the death of George Floyd Friday, May 29, 2020, in front of the Bakersfield Police Department in downtown Bakersfield. Photo by Henry Barrios for Kern Sol News
Kern Sol News is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.