Most New Yorkers Oppose Defunding the Police: Poll

June 30, 2020 Updated: June 30, 2020

A majority of voters in New York state oppose reducing police department budgets, according to a new Siena poll.

Six out of 10 respondents said they oppose efforts to “defund the police.”

That phrase is used by some to suggest slashing budgets for police agencies. Others use it to mean getting rid of police departments.

Another portion of the poll asked respondents whether they support or oppose reducing funding to police departments. Fifty-seven percent said they oppose the efforts.

Of the six groups listed—Democrats, Republicans, Independents, black voters, Latino voters, and white voters—a majority or plurality of every group but blacks said they oppose defunding the police.

The response to reducing funding for police departments was more divided: a majority of Democrats, blacks, and Latinos said they support such efforts.

Activists across the nation are pushing to reduce funding to departments or completely abolish police agencies. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, announced Monday a plan to cut $1.5 billion from the city’s police department.

There was broad support among poll respondents for three other police reform ideas: creating a national database of police officer misconduct, having mental health professionals accompany officers on some 911 calls, and passing a federal law to ban officers from using chokeholds.

Each idea drew over 80 percent support, including majorities in all groups.

NYPD officers block the entrance of the Manhattan Bridge
NYPD officers block the entrance of the Manhattan Bridge as hundreds protesting alleged police brutality and systemic racism attempt to cross into the borough of Manhattan from Brooklyn after a citywide curfew went into effect in New York City on June 2, 2020. (Scott Heins/Getty Images)

Another idea listed drew more lukewarm support. Eliminating qualified immunity was supported by 63 percent of voters, including majorities of every group except Republicans.

Qualified immunity shields law enforcement officers from civil lawsuits if their actions didn’t clearly violate the law.

The final idea posed to respondents was demilitarizing the police, a phrase that refers to curbing the use by police officers of military equipment. A plurality of 46 percent supported the idea, with opposition among Republicans, Independents, and white voters.

“At least 70 percent of Democrats, Republicans, independents, Blacks, Latinos, and whites agree on each of three police reforms: creating a national database of police misconduct; a federal law banning chokeholds by police; and, having mental health professionals respond with police on calls involving homelessness, drug addiction or mental health,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said in a statement.

“Support for eliminating qualified immunity is also very strong, 63-26 percent, although white and independent support falls below 60 percent and Republicans barely support, 45-42 percent.”

Voters were also asked about the notion of systemic racism, or racism being embedded in institutions like police departments. Fifty-one percent said systemic racism is a very serious problem; 30 percent said it’s a somewhat serious problem.

The poll was conducted from June 23 to June 25 among registered voters through landlines, cell phones, and an online panel.

The margin of error was plus/minus 3.9 percentage points.

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