Poll shows ‘defunding’ Minneapolis police is driven by white voters

A poll carried out for the Star Tribune, MPR News, KARE 11, FRONTLINE and the PBS series sheds some fascinating light on the ongoing debate on policing in Minneapolis.

Some in favor of the proposed amendment have seized on the responses to the question: Do you support or oppose replacing the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety, which may include police officers and will focus on public health, and giving the City Council more authority over public safety?

On net, support comes from voters of both genders, white voters, voters under 65, college graduates and non-college graduates, and Democrats. This is a pretty broad range giving the measure 49 percent of Minneapolis voters in support compared to 41 percent against.

But take a look at the voters who are, on net, opposed to this measure: black voters, voters over 65, Republicans, and Independents. For a measure which is being pushed as necessary to fight ‘systemic racism’, it is extraordinary that black voters oppose it by five points (black women oppose it by a whopping thirteen points) while white voters support it by eleven points. It is striking to note, too, that opposition to this measure unites black, Republican, and independent voters.

Note, too, the use of the word ‘may’ in this question: this new Department of Public Safety may not include police officers, focus on public health, and give the City Council more authority over public safety. This vague wording is why courts initially struck the question down.

If, as is quite possible on this vague wording, the new Department of Public Safety didn’t include police officers, or included many fewer of them, how many of those answering ‘Support’ would still do so? Perhaps not so many. When asked: Do you think Minneapolis should or should not reduce the size of its police force? 29 percent of voters say it should but a hefty 55 percent show that it shouldn’t.

Again, breaking down the numbers reveals some fascinating things. Reducing the size of Minneapolis’ police force — which may well happen under the current proposal — fails to find support, on net, among a single group of voters sampled. It fares best among voters aged 18-34, white voters, and Democrats (net opposition of -6, -18, and -20 points respectively): It fares worst among black voters and Republicans (net opposition of a staggering -61 and -66 points respectively). Once again, blacks and Republicans are aligned on this question with whites and Democrats furthest from them.

None of this ought to be surprising. The quantity of policing in Minneapolis has fallen drastically over the last 18 months: Violent crime is up 19 percent so far this year: Black Minneapolitans have been the victims to a strikingly disproportionate degree. While ‘defunding’ the police is an ideologically driven crusade for younger, white, Democratic voters, for Minneapolis’ black voters it is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.