If the findings of a recent Gallup poll are any indication, fewer conservatives are backing the blue these days. In fact, the survey, which showed Americans’ faith in the country’s major institutions, shows a significant decline in the percentage of Republicans who say they trust the police.
This result seems rather surprising given that conservatives have overwhelmingly supported law enforcement – even to a fault – in days past.The Gallup report noted that faith in U.S. institutions has fallen considerably across the board.
From the report:
Americans are less confident in major U.S. institutions than they were a year ago, with significant declines for 11 of the 16 institutions tested and no improvements for any. The largest declines in confidence are 11 percentage points for the Supreme Court — as reported in late June before the court issued controversial rulings on gun laws and abortion — and 15 points for the presidency, matching the 15-point drop in President Joe Biden’s job approval rating since the last confidence survey in June 2021.
The survey measured trust in institutions like the military, presidency, Congress, public schools, organized religions, and other staples of American society. It showed how the survey’s findings shifted between 2021 and 2022. Trust in law enforcement has declined with the majority of respondents regardless of political affiliation. But the drop was most pronounced among Republicans.
In 2021, 78 percent of conservative participants indicated they trusted the police. This number dropped to 67 percent in 2022, an 11-point decrease. Among Independents, the number fell from 49 percent to 41 percent. With Democrats, it dropped from 30 percent to 28 percent.
This raises an important question: Why are fewer conservatives willing to trust the police?
There are likely several factors that have influenced these results. When I asked this question on Twitter, I received some interesting responses from my followers. Most believe it was the fact that officers were more than willing to enforce onerous COVID restrictions:
The expectation that they would call BS to pandemic restrictions instead of enforcing them. Learning that many are there for the paycheck not to uphold principles. People should question if the military would fire on fellow citizens. Right now you should assume the answer is yes.
— Caelestis Ens (@CaelestisEns) July 6, 2022
Enforcing nonsense Covid dictates and just generally protecting themselves and the elite at the expense of the people.
— Bacon & More 🇺🇸 (@BaconMore1) July 6, 2022
I think it’s how police were used to enforce Covid lockdowns. Also the cases where the police were used on people speaking at school boards. Finally while not exactly “police” the shenanigans of the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies contribute to this as well.
— Madam B (@madamB5) July 6, 2022
IMO…the actions of police depts during covid. The optics of officers trying to peer thru windows for too many house guests/arresting people for being on playgrounds.
People realized that some cops will comply with orders regardless if they're constitutional, moral or ethical.
— Banners (@bannersquest) July 6, 2022
Others cited the lack of police response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas:
The Uvalde catastrophe alone destroyed my confidence in their ability to protect and serve. On top of that you have piles of video of bad behavior by bad cops.
— Sowell Train (@JayChubby) July 6, 2022
Truth be told the number should be a hell of a lot lower, the Supreme Court and multiple courts around the country have ruled numerous times that the police have no obligation to protect you. Uvalde should have been the final wake-up call.
— Lolbannman (@lolbannman) July 6, 2022
Uvalde did nothing. The cops around the country are doing nothing. I understand their hands are tied in many places, but what stops them from doing their jobs and letting the next higher up take the blame. At least arrest them so its on record. We had them and YOU let them go.
— Clarissa (@AgendaHurts) July 6, 2022
Others suggested that it was the many stories about corrupt police officers abusing their authority, combined with the fact that they have been unable or unwilling to protect civilians. Indeed, all of these factors are likely contributors to this new trend.
I’ve been paying attention to conservative politics for over a decade, and when I noticed declining trust in the police among conservatives, it was a bit of a shock. Republicans had typically supported police regardless of the myriad of stories featuring the bad apples. Perhaps the libertarian in me did not understand the overwhelming reverence for agents of the state among people who claim to fear the possibility of an abusive government.
But, like others, I saw the tide begin to turn during the COVID-19 pandemic. When folks saw officers abusing people just for wanting to take their children to the park, it seems that many on the right finally began to see that the police aren’t exactly our friends. When they deem it necessary, they will not hesitate to violate our rights instead of upholding the Constitution.
I also noticed a difference in attitude when various videos would go viral on social media showing officers using excessive force on suspects. Sure, there were still plenty who defended the actions no matter how egregious, but more and more, I saw conservatives criticizing them.
The response to the murder of George Floyd also seemed to be pivotal in this trend. Polling shows the majority of Republicans disapproved of former officer Derek Chauvin’s actions on that day. About 55 percent agreed with the guilty verdict. But what is also interesting about these polls is that they did not ask respondents who did not agree with the verdict if they still believed Chauvin deserved some type of punishment. I knew of many who thought he should not have been found guilty on all charges, but should still have faced jail time.
This is a drastic difference from how it would have been 10 years ago, when it seemed that police could do no wrong as far as conservatives were concerned. This is a positive sign. Yes, the majority of police officers are decent folks trying to do their jobs. It does not make sense to demonize all police for the actions of a few.
Still, police are agents of the state. As I always say, there is nothing conservative about blindly trusting government officials who have been granted the authority to violate our rights when they believe it to be appropriate. A healthy distrust is good for those who value liberty.