Survey

Public Opinion Poll: Do Utahns Trust Police Officers?


Stories of police abuse and corruption pepper the national media on a constant basis. Utah is not exempt from this trend. In order to determine how Utahns felt about police, their use of force, and the standards to which they are held, Libertas Institute conducted the following public opinion poll.

We surveyed 500 random Utah voters on October 2, 2013 via an automated phone system. Sampled voters were contacted and administered a questionnaire. Half of respondents were contacted on a mobile phone, the other half on a landline. The margin of sampling error is ±4.38%.

Those wishing to perform their own analysis of the survey results may download the full data here. Questions? Contact us.

1. When a police officer is driving near you on the road, or passing through your neighborhood, what is your initial reaction?

Here is the breakdown by age group:

Here is the breakdown by political affiliation:

2. Speaking generally, do you trust or distrust police officers?

Here is the breakdown by age group:

Here is the breakdown by political affiliation:

3. Do you believe that police officers are too quick to use lethal force?

Here is the breakdown by age group:

Here is the breakdown by political affiliation:

4. If you had an emergency and needed help, would you call 911?

Here is the breakdown by age group:

Here is the breakdown by political affiliation:

5. If a police officer violates the law or department policy, are you confident that they will be held accountable, and if necessary, punished or prosecuted?

Here is the breakdown by age group:

Here is the breakdown by political affiliation:

6. Do you believe that police officers are held to the same standards as an ordinary citizen?

Here is the breakdown by age group:

Here is the breakdown by political affiliation:

7. Are you related to, or close friends with, a police officer?

Analysis

The data collected in this survey seems to substantiate a commonly held thought: police overall are trusted and perceived as being protectors of the people, but citizens are skeptical of the few bad apples and the process in place to ensure that justice is served upon them.

While 21% of Utahns feel anxiety or potential danger when they first encounter an officer, the age breakdown reveals a greater disparity. Only 14.69% of senior citizens feel this way, whereas that number more than doubles for the younger millennial crowd. Yet the trend is slightly reversed when asked if officers are too quick to use lethal force; older individuals believed this was the case more so than younger individuals.

Conversely, younger voters were less likely to believe that an officer in violation of law or department policy would be held accountable. 20.87% of Republicans believed that such officers are not held accountable, whereas that number nearly doubles for Democrats and Independents.

Independent voters are almost three times as likely to distrust police officers than Republicans or Democrats.

Utah voters are split, almost exactly, when asked if a double standard exists for police officers. But again, the age factor is interesting—only 28.65% of senior citizens believe that a double standard exists, whereas 48.35% of millennial voters think that to be the case.

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