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More Americans Prefer Stronger Law Enforcement

Gallup has a poll out today showing that, when asked to choose the higher priority between (1) strengthening law and order through more police and greater enforcement, or (2) reducing bias against minorities in the criminal justice system by reforming court and police practices,  49% choose the former and 43% the latter. The 6% difference is outside the margin of error.  The poll can be found here.

So how does this translate in terms of political advantage?  Specifically, is it smarter to run a national race prioritizing law and order, or prioritizing bias reduction?

Let me ask that question a different way:  Is 49% higher than 43%?
There are two noteworthy things about this poll, in my view.

First, just as support for the death penalty increased as the murder rate went up (and has decreased (with a time lag) as the rate has been going down), support for stronger enforcement is all but certain to increase as violent crime escalates, as it's been doing for about the last 24 months.  This is not that hard to figure out.  The more serious the disease, the stronger the medicine patients will demand.

Second, for those who would prioritize increasing protections for vulnerable minorities (and what person of good faith would not want to increase such protections?), the most important thing we can do is precisely to increase law enforcement.  Many minority citizens understand this, a point I made in my entry here.

The best thing we can do for minorities is preserve their lives.  The next best is to help them protect what they've worked years to earn.  For 23 years, from 1991 to near the end of 2014, we did exactly that.  More police, more aggressive policing, and longer sentences for more criminals (along with the aging of the Baby Boomers and increased private security measures) brought crime down by half.  This huge reduction in criminal depredation disproportionately benefited blacks, since they were (and remain) a disproportionate number of crime victims.

In other words, more aggressively enforcing the law and increasing the well-being of minorities are not opposing priorities.  Those who take the time to examine the data from the last generation  -- and can break free from ideology  --  will see they're the same thing.


This is a very interesting poll, though the results broken down by part affiliation reveals that the politics run the other way of one is looking to appeal specifically to independents.

Also, recent polling on marijuana reform also suggests that doing away with blanket marijuana prohibition --- especially at the federal level ---- ought to be the top priority for those seeking to cater to modern voters.

That's one way to see it, yes. Your suppleness of mind does not fail you.

Here are two other ways to see it.

1. If you're looking to appeal to the electorate at large, you are better off with the law-and-order position.

2. If you're the law-and-order candidate hoping to peel off independents and Democrats, you have a much bigger field to appeal to than if you're the "anti-bias" candidate hoping to peel off Republicans.

Here are the numbers for that breakdown. They show that the percentage of Republicans dissenting from the law-and-order position is small, and much lower than the percentage of Democrats and independents dissenting from the anti-bias position.

Strengthening law and order: 77 % Reducing bias against minorities: 17 % No opinion: 6 %

Strengthening law and order: 41 % Reducing bias against minorities: 52 % No opinion: 8 %

Strengthening law and order: 32 % Reducing bias against minorities: 60 % No opinion: 8 %


Of course, it is, as I noted, a false dichotomy if one takes the view that (1) the single most important thing the law can do for blacks is preserve their lives, and (2) stronger law enforcement and tougher sentencing have been shown for an entire generation to do more to achieve that goal than weaker law enforcement and lighter sentencing (which we saw in the prior generation).

I think No. 1 is indisputable as a normative matter, and No. 2 is indisputable as a statistical matter. The numbers are not merely suggestive; they're breathtaking.

Keep in mind that the wording of the poll itself reinforces the [debatable] view that bias against minorities in fact exists in the criminal justice system. Obviously you're going to have skewed results if you assume one side's claims in the question wording - imagine a DP poll that asked whether people preferred speedier executions or exonerating the innocent. The wording [falsely] assuming there are innocents on death row to be exonerated (as the hypothetical question does) will itself reduce support for the death penalty.

Take away the pro-bias framing, and you'd likely see even higher support for law and order (as with this poll here, which finds pluralities of every demographic group want more police: http://www.gallup.com/poll/184511/blacks-divided-whether-police-treat-minorities-fairly.aspx).



The Gallup organization is neutral as pollsters go, but it has its problems. As Kent has pointed out many times, its question about support for the death penalty has a significant slant toward skewing answers to show less backing than the DP actually has. (Even with that, though, it has shown DP support with fat majorities for more than 40 straight years).

Excellent points here, all of which reinforce my strong view that many modern Dems are foolish for not now promoting reform of blanket marijuana prohibition --- especially at the federal level --- in order to free police to focus on more serious crime (and ideally to raise tax revenues that could be used to fund more police).

Adding to this view of mine that the Dems (and especially the BLM movement) are making a strategic advocacy mistake is the reality that most people across the political spectrum believe --- rightly in my view --- that the most visible and tangible way our system is tilted against minorities is in the enforcement of the drug war (especially the "war on marijuana").

"many modern Dems are foolish..."

They are not so foolish as to neglect delivering for their anti-law enforcement
constituency, one of their more faithful voting blocks identified hereat:

Jail survey: 7 in 10 felons register as Democrats.

(WashExaminer @secretsbedard)

Here is an example of the behavior of the violent felon voting block,
among the democrats' more loyal groups:

Inmate gets gang enhancement sentence 03/14/16
Frederic Jermaine Armstrong, also known as “Havoc,” an inmate at the
Whiteville Correctional Facility, was found guilty Jan. 11 by a
Hardeman County jury on charges of aggravated assault.

As the correctional officer was talking to Armstrong, the officer turned his head
and Armstrong struck him twice, effectively rendering him incapacitated,
according to the release.

When the officer fell to the floor, Armstrong reportedly knelt down and struck him in the face and head a total of 29 times ... [which] resulted in virtually every bone
in the officer’s face being broken
, according to the release.

The attack left the officer blind in his left eye.

~ wbbjtv.com/2016/03/14/inmate-gets-gang-enhancement-sentence-

I cannot get you link to work, Adamakis, but I wonder if the voter registration numbers would seem so skewed if we controlled for race and age in the survey. I have seen other surveys suggesting that more criminal offenders skew more to the right than otherwise might be expected. (Then again, if we were to control for level of education, gender, and socio-economic factors, the numbers get complicated again.)

1]. "Data on discharges from the correctional system and voter files: ... New Mexico, New York, and North Carolina." "In New York, for example, 61.5% of convicts are Democrats, just 9% Republican. ... 73% of convicts who turn out for presidential elections would vote Democrat."
2]. " -- New Mexico 51.9% Democratic, 10.2% Republican";
3]. " -- North Carolina 54.6% Democratic, 10.2% Republican";
4]. "... 5.8 million eligible voters in jail, about 2.5% of the voting age population";

5]. "The AAPSS study puts it bluntly: “Democrats would benefit from additional ex-felon participation.”

~ [Just as with illegal aliens.]
ann.sagepub.com/content/651/1/220.abstract; www.washingtonexaminer.com/jail-survey-nearly-34-felons-register-as-democrats/article/2541412; mic.com/articles/78013/most-convicts-vote-democrat-study-shows#.DDzsOMcyN

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