“The recent protests against police brutality are some of the largest and most widespread in American history. An estimated 15 million to 26 million Americans have taken to the streets to protest police violence and advocate for Black lives.
The remarkable size and scope of these demonstrations has translated into real policy gains, too. Dozens of state and local police reforms have been enacted since the protests started. And at the federal level, President Trump signed an executive order that outlines his administration’s priorities for police reform, including creating a national database that catalogues police misconduct. The House of Representatives passed an even more ambitious piece of legislation that proposes a series of reforms, like tying federal funding to bans on chokeholds and setting up a task force to address excessive police force, but the GOP-controlled Senate hasn’t taken it up.
Arguably, though, the protests’ impact on public opinion has been even more immediate and wide-ranging. Unfavorable views of the police, acknowledgement of widespread discrimination against African Americans and support for Black Lives Matter all jumped up by at least 10 percentage points, according to tracking polls conducted shortly before and after the protests by both Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape and Civiqs.
These changes in public opinion are being driven in large part by white Americans, who for years have been much less likely than Black Americans to acknowledge that racial inequality remains a real problem. Since the first wave of large-scale Black Lives Matter protests in 2014, white Americans’ racial attitudes have gradually become more liberalized while Black Americans’ views have remained relatively steady.
Trump’s many offensive statements may be contributing to this trend, as they seem to be driving Democrats, particularly white Democrats, to adopt more liberal views on race in response. That’s one reason so many white Democrats showed up at the most recent protests.
But the protests’ impact on public opinion appears to be fading — particularly among white Americans”
“unfavorable views of the police are trending back down toward their pre-protest levels among white Americans and have dipped among Black Americans. White respondents are also becoming somewhat less likely to say that African Americans face “a lot” or “a great deal” of discrimination, though those numbers remain higher than they were before before George Floyd was killed in May. Black Americans’ views on the discrimination they face have remained essentially unchanged.”
“This decline in public opinion is consistent with a long line of political science research that tells us that the effects of events on public opinion tend to last only for as long as they are at the forefront of the country’s — or, in this case, one group’s — collective consciousness. That also means that without prolonged activism and sustained media attention, the impact of this year’s protests on white public opinion could evaporate entirely.”
“As calls to defund and abolish the police grow around the country, a new poll by Gallup finds that a large majority—81 percent—of black Americans want the same or increased levels of police presence in their neighborhoods. Just 19 percent of black Americans said they want the police to spend less time in their neighborhoods”
“In early April, President Donald Trump’s job approval reached 46 percent in FiveThirtyEight’s poll aggregator — its highest level since January 25, 2017, and a 6-point increase since early November. It has since drifted back down to 43 percent. If Trump received any bump from his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, it was unusually small and short-lived.
International comparison is useful here. Leaders in most peer countries saw 10- to 20-point increases in their Morning Consult polling numbers by mid-April compared to a month earlier, when the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. Canada’s Justin Trudeau has seen a 16-point bump; Scott Morrison of Australia a 25-point increase; even the largely unpopular French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron has seen his job approval rise 10 points.”
“Democratic and Republican state governors across the US have seen big increases in popularity as well, upward of 15 points in various polls”
“Why has Trump’s approval bump been so small relative to most other leaders at home and abroad?
One theory is that the Trump administration’s late and botched response to the coronavirus has dragged down the president’s popularity. There’s some data behind this intuition: According to two recent polls, 65 percent of Americans say either that Trump did not take Covid-19 “seriously enough at the beginning” or that he was “too slow to take major steps” to address the situation.
But plenty of other leaders have had huge popularity boosts despite their own flailing responses. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s overall favorability is up 27 points despite criticism for his hesitance to push for more drastic measures early in the crisis. The UK’s Boris Johnson, who came under fire for his government’s infamous “herd immunity” strategy in mid-March, has seen an 18-point bump. Even Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose initial response has been viewed as a cautionary tale of what other countries should avoid, saw his administration’s approval rating shoot up from 27 to 71 percent.”
“it does seem to matter how long that ineffectiveness lasts. A common thread among Cuomo, Johnson, and Conte: Despite fumbling their initial responses to Covid-19, they quickly changed course and began implementing clear, focused public health measures informed by scientific consensus. Voters might forgive an initial display of incompetence in the face of a novel threat if their leaders quickly adapt and steer the ship in the right direction.
Trump, it seems, has not earned much forgiveness. After denying the severity of the outbreak well into March, Trump looked as though he was beginning to change course. But then he reversed once again. He began saying that the cure of social distancing was “worse than the problem itself,” claiming the country would reopen by Easter, and endorsing unproven (and possibly dangerous) therapeutics. Last week, he even suggested that injecting people with bleach might be a potential treatment (seemingly prompting hundreds of calls to poison centers seeking guidance).”
“There’s been a lot of focus on how the Trump administration was technically and strategically unprepared for this crisis — and that’s true. But there’s also a way in which Trump himself was not temperamentally or ideologically prepared for it either. Trump built his political career atop fracture, conflict, and polarization. But he’s just collided with a crisis that demands solidarity, unity, and mutuality.”