Survey also tested public’s confidence in federal agencies ICE and FBI
ST. LEO, FL – Among Americans surveyed recently by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (http://polls.saintleo.edu), just over half have strong trust in police officers, as well as in police departments. The August 2018 findings edged down from previous years to 52.4 percent with strong trust in officers, and 50.8 percent in departments. This is the fourth consecutive year the polling institute has asked respondents their opinions about law enforcement and the justice system.
The survey also revealed that 28.9 percent of respondents nationally say they have little or no trust in officers and 29 percent having little or no trust in departments. The remainder of respondents were neutral in their opinions, with a small segment of about 2 or 3 percent who were unsure how to answer.
In Florida, where a separate sample was surveyed, law enforcement fared marginally better. The state sample shows 55.4 percent indicate strong trust in officers and 54.2 percent in departments. On the other end of the trust scale, 24.6 percent in Florida report little or no trust in police officers and 23.6 percent show little or no trust in departments.
The most recent survey was conducted with 1,000 adults nationally between August 10 and August 16, 2018. During the same six-day period, 500 adults from across Florida answered the same questions. The margin of error for national results is plus or minus 3 percentage points and for Florida results is 4.5 percentage points.
Previous Saint Leo University Polling Institute surveys covering law and justice were conducted in October 2015, September 2016, and September 2017. Some patterns recur, such as the decidedly mixed results on trust.
Also, the practice of having law enforcement officers wear body cameras for videotaping is popular. Respondents have been asked each year if they strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with a number of statements, including: “Police officers should be required to wear body cameras to better assist in reviewing difficult incidents.” Each year, there has been a combined level of agreement of at least 86 percent nationally and in Florida with that statement.
New questions have also been added at various points to get a more complete or updated view of public opinion. In the most recent survey, a few more test statements were added. One was: “If handy, I would use a device to videotape my conversation with an officer who has stopped me when driving.” Nationally, 64.3 percent strongly agree and somewhat agree; in Florida the sum was nearly identical at 64.6 percent.
Another statement introduced in August for agreement-or-disagreement testing was: “Most law enforcement officers racially profile when deciding to stop motorists.” The results show combined levels of agreement of more than 50 percent in both geographic samples. Nationally, the percentage finding is 55.9 percent, and in Florida, 54.4 percent.
When presented with another, broader, test statement—“Law enforcement officers treat everyone, regardless of race, fairly and evenly”—45.6 percent of the national sample indicate they agree either strongly or somewhat. That is basically even with the finding from 2017 when people were first asked to react to that statement. In Florida, 46.2 percent of people say they strongly or somewhat agree, statistically even with the 47.6 percent recorded in 2017.
Compared with police officers and departments, active participants in the justice system fare worse in public perception. Specifically, strong trust in juries to do the “right thing” nationally was 45.4 percent. Strong trust in the judicial system, described as the prosecutors, courts, and judges, was 44.5 percent in the national sample. Results were about the same in Florida. In both cases, a fair portion of the sample is just neutral. The levels of respondents saying they have little or no trust is in the mid-to-high 20-percent range.
New topics: high-profile federal agencies
This year for the first time, respondents were asked about their level of trust in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has sometimes been criticized by President Donald J. Trump. Strong trust in the FBI was reported by 46.7 percent of the national sample, and 49.4 percent of the Florida sample. Those indicating little or no trust nationally in the FBI accounted for 28.9 percent nationally, while in Florida, they represent 28 percent of the population.
Three questions were added this year by the polling institute specifically about the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency, more commonly known as ICE. Immigration is the agency’s single largest duty and the agency has been in the news concerning intensified efforts to track down people in the country without legal standing for deportation. People were asked what level of trust they have in ICE, with 43.2 percent nationally, and 49 percent in Florida, reporting strong trust.
The survey noted that some have called for the abolition of ICE and sought respondents’ reactions to the idea. Specifically, the survey asked people if they strongly support or somewhat support abolishing ICE, or, if instead, they strongly oppose or somewhat oppose abolishing the agency. People could also say they are not sure. The results were spread across the possible options.
|Position on abolishing ICE
|Combined levels of support
|Combined levels of opposition
The next question asked respondents to consider the case of a politician running for office who supports abolishing the agency. People were asked to indicate whether they were more or less likely to support the candidate, whether the issue would not make a difference in their voting decision, or whether they are unsure.
|If a political candidate favors abolishing ICE
|More likely to support the candidate
|Less likely to support the candidate
|Would make no difference in my vote
Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute, said with these results, campaigns will be, or should be, careful about thinking they can attract voters by targeting these agencies in their platforms. “It seems as though there is no widespread support to eliminate agencies like ICE or to undermine the FBI,” Orlando said. “While it might be a good strategy during a Democratic primary to attack ICE, it appears as though that will not be fruitful in a general election. Republicans will use this issue in November against Democrats who have made strong stands against ICE. On the other side of the coin, Republicans echoing the president on the trustworthiness of the FBI do so at their own peril.”
The survey also included a test statement that focused respondents’ attention on the subject of immigration and immigrants themselves, rather than on a federal agency. Two-thirds of the national sample and 69.2 percent among the Florida sample say they strongly or somewhat agree that “When individuals cross our borders without authorization and are not citizens, they are committing a crime and should be detained, processed, and returned to their home nations.”
New tech concerns about population being vulnerable to monitoring
Another new topic to the survey asked respondents about new means of identifying people. Respondents were asked to read the following and record their levels of agreements or disagreements.
I am concerned that new fingerprint and facial recognition technologies will lead
to loss of my own privacy.
|Fear loss of privacy?
|Combined levels of agreement
|Combined levels of disagreement
About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: The poll sampled opinions of 1,000 respondents nationwide. The survey was conducted August 10 through August 16, 2018. All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The poll has a +/- 3.0 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level (on a composite basis) with questions asked of all 1,000. The same poll sampled opinions of 500 respondents in Florida during the same time period. The Florida poll has a +/- 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level (on a composite basis).
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.
Media contacts: Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).
Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications email@example.com or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text).
More About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University (www.saintleo.edu) is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. Saint Leo welcomes people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourages learners of all generations. The university is committed to providing educational opportunities to the nation’s armed forces, veterans, and their families. Saint Leo is regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and the faculty and staff guide all students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.
The university remains the faithful steward of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where its founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving more than 13,000 students, Saint Leo has expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintains a physical presence in seven states. The university provides highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 93,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.