Police Reform: Where Americans Have Common Ground

A unique survey asked where Americans stand on several proposals before Congress. We joined our partners at Voice of the People and the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland to unveil the findings.

July 19, 2020

Black Lives Matters protesters in New York City. Photo by Life Matters.

In the weeks following the police killing of George Floyd, anywhere from 15 to 26 million Americans, according to various estimates, took to the streets. They marched in big cities and small towns across the country – from Minneapolis to Atlanta, from Helena, Montana to Pasadena, Texas – in protest of unfair treatment by law enforcement.

Nearly two months after Floyd’s death, how do Americans want to move forward? To find out, our friends at Voice of the People (VOP) and the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland (PPC) surveyed 3,200 people about a slate of police reform proposals that are currently under consideration in Congress.

This was no ordinary survey. VOP and PPC use an innovative survey method called a policymaking simulation to conduct surveys of the American public on important issues facing our nation. The people who responded to this survey received a briefing on each issue, evaluated arguments for and against various proposals, then weighed in with their recommendations in the same way legislators do when writing new laws. We’ve relied on this survey method in the past to get a richer understanding of where voters stand on all kinds of issues, such as immigration and voting reform, and we were excited to find out what it could tell us about specific policies Americans want to see when it comes to police reform.

Here’s what the research found (click the image to enlarge):

That’s right: majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents supported six of the proposals in the survey.

Of course, Americans don’t agree on everything, and they didn’t in this survey, either. Some proposals, like amending qualified immunity for police officers and ending no-knock warrants, found majority support among Democrats and independents, but appealed to fewer than half of Republicans. Still, the results clearly show that Americans have substantial common ground when it comes to police reform. That’s critical for us as voters, because seeing that we have more in common than we think brings down the temperature of our political conversations, and lets us think more positively about working together.

It’s critical for Congress, too. The proposals in this survey came from the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a bill that passed the House of Representatives on June 25 and now sits motionless in the Senate. This detailed survey shows that six proposals in this bill have strong support from voters – including a majority of voters from both major parties, and a majority of independent voters as well.

At Common Ground Solutions, our role is not to support or oppose any particular piece of legislation. We believe Members of Congress should represent the beliefs of their constituents – especially when that means crossing party lines when voters agree on issues. As the nation continues to wrestle with ways to reform police practices, we encourage our readers to take action and make sure their voices are heard by their elected representatives.

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This article originally appeared in the July 19, 2020 issue of Wide Angle, our regular newsletter designed, we hope, to inform rather than inflame. Each edition brings you original articles by Common Ground Solutions, a quiz, and published articles — from across the political spectrum — that we think are worth reading. We make a special effort to cover good work being done to bridge political divides, and to offer constructive information on ways our readers can engage in the political process and make a difference on issues that matter to them.

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