A June poll reveals that although American confidence in law enforcement has risen slightly from its 2016 level, it has been declining significantly among some population groups.
Findings from the Gallup poll, conducted June 7-11, reveal that confidence in the police returned to a 25-year average of 57 percent.
Over recent years, confidence in law enforcement dropped to 53 percent in 2014 and 52 percent in 2015, tying the lowest level of confidence on record. The decline was driven by a series of shootings of black men by officers, several of which drew national attention, including those in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The trend of fatal police shootings has continued unabated. According to The Washington Post, the figure for the number of people killed by police officers in 2017 is on track to reach 1,000 for the third year in a row.
The Post began tracking fatal police shootings in 2015 following the killing of Michael Brown. In both 2015 and 2016, the newspaper found that twice as many people were shot by officers than the official FBI figures alleged. A similar picture is emerging in 2017.
"These numbers show us that officer-involved shootings are constant over time," Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminologist, told The Post. "Some places go up, some go down, but it's averaging out. This is our society in the 21st century."
A breakdown of the results in the Gallup poll provides a more complex picture. 38 percent of self-identifying "liberals" in the June poll said they had confidence in the police, compared to 73 percent of "conservatives." This represented the lowest and highest levels of support for the police among these respective ideological groups since 2000.
Backing for the police also dipped among people aged 18-34. Between 2012 and 2014, support for the police among those younger than 35 averaged out at 56 percent, compared to 44 percent between 2015 and 2017. Support among those aged 55 and older trends in the opposite direction, going up from an average of 58 percent between 2012 and 2014 to 63 percent between 2015 and 2017.
Among blacks, police support dropped from 35 percent to 30 percent over the same period of time. Hispanics also expressed decreased levels of confidence, as shown in support declining from 59 percent between 2012 and 2014 to 45 percent between 2015 and 2017.
The Post's figures show that the most frequent target of fatal police shootings are white men who are armed. Black males account for around one quarter of total deaths, although they make up 6 percent of the population.
One quarter of police victims so far in 2017 were mentally ill.