Most Wisconsinites Support the Police, New Poll Shows

defund police poll

The media are pushing out a daily drumbeat of stories about the movement to defund the police, and rhetoric against law enforcement and Wisconsin police has escalated throughout the country and here. However, do most Wisconsinites really want police defunded? Do they view the police unfavorably?

The answer to both of those questions, according to a new poll, is an emphatic “no.” Meanwhile, support for Black Lives Matter is dropping in Wisconsin, and far more people view the police favorably than BLM.

There is no gender divide. Men and women are only 1 percentage point apart in supporting the police. The vast majority of people at all education levels support the police. There are some partisan differences, but even more Democrats have favorable views of the police than don’t. Although Blacks are less likely to have favorable views of the police, more Blacks answered that they view the police favorably, don’t know enough about the topic to know or “don’t know,” than said they view the police unfavorably.

The poll was released by Marquette Law School on August 11, 2020. It’s considered one of the most respected polls in Wisconsin, although it was wrong on the presidential election in 2016.

The poll covered many issues, ranging from the presidential election to mask wearing and school reopening. News stories tended to focus on those angles (USA Today headline: “Biden leads Trump, 49%-44%, among likely Wisconsin voters in latest Marquette Poll.” Fox 6 Milwaukee: “Marquette poll shows 69% agree masks should be required in all public places.”) The police angle was largely lost in the news coverage on the poll.

However, the poll also asked people two revealing questions about the police:


Wisconsin Support Is Growing for Police But Dropping for Black Lives Matter

Milwaukee police
A Milwaukee police car. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

According to the poll, 76% of those polled have a favorable view of the police and 78% disagreed with defunding the police. Only 49% of the state has a favorable view of Black Lives Matter, in contrast, a number that slipped 10% since June.

However, support for police is growing in Wisconsin. “Police are viewed favorably by 76% and unfavorably by 13%. In June, 72% had a favorable and 18% had an unfavorable view of the police,” the pollsters wrote.

Whether people support defunding the police was one of 10 questions the pollsters asked people (they also asked questions about healthcare, the minimum age, and other topics). Defunding the police “draws the highest opposition, 17% in favor and 78% opposed,” the pollsters wrote.

The poll does show differences on age, although more people in every age group supported the police than didn’t support the police. Eighty-four percent of people ages 45 to 59 supported the police; 83% of people 60 and over did; 68% of people ages 30 to 44 did; and 54% of people ages 18 to 59 did.

Although there are differences by party, even most Democrats support the police (61%). Ninety-three percent of Republicans and 74% of Independents support the police.

Blacks are an anomaly in this poll. The poll found that 36% of Blacks support the police. However, most Hispanics, whites, and people of other races supported the police, the poll found. Although only 27 percent of Blacks have a favorable opinion of the police, a much larger percentage of Blacks than people of other races indicated they didn’t know enough to say – 26% – or “didn’t know” – 11%. Thus, if you add those three categories together, 64% of Blacks either have a favorable impression of the police or don’t know enough to say or just don’t know, overwhelming the number of Blacks who said they have an unfavorable view of the police.

When it comes to the poll’s crosstabs on defunding the police, men were somewhat more likely to disagree with defunding the police, but both men and women mostly opposed defunding (82% of men disagreed with defunding the police and 75% of women disagreed with defunding the police). More than half of people of all age ranges disagreed with defunding the police (57% of those 18-29; 66% of those 30-44; 86% of those 45-59; and 87% of those 60 and over.) Democrats were least likely to disagree with defunding the police, but even 62% of Democrats oppose it (compared to 93% of Republicans, 78% of Independents, and 67% of people without party affiliation.) Those statistics come from the crosstabs on registered voters.

The numbers follow similar patterns when you look at likely voters instead of registered voters. More white, Hispanic and people of other races have a favorable view of the police than have an unfavorable view. Blacks are again an anomaly. They were far more likely to say they didn’t know enough to say or didn’t know. Altogether, 63% of Blacks either have a favorable view of the police or don’t know or don’t know enough to say, compared to 37% having an unfavorable view of the police.


The Poll Showed the Race Between Biden & Trump is Tightening

Some of the poll’s questions focused on the 2020 presidential race. The poll shows Joe Biden “favored by 49 percent and President Donald Trump by 44 percent.” (Reminder: the final Marquette poll in 2016 showed Hillary Clinton defeating Trump by 6%).

The new poll found geographic divides in the contest for president in Wisconsin: “Biden holds leads in the City of Milwaukee and the Madison media market. Trump leads in the Milwaukee area outside the city. The race is very close in the Green Bay area and in the rest of the state, with Trump regaining the lead in the north and west of the state in August,” it says.

Independents are less enthusiastic about voting this year than Democrats and Republicans are.


There Are Strong Partisan Differences on COVID-19 Mask Wearing

tony evers
Tony Evers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The poll also measured people’s attitudes on COVID-19. It found that 14% have lost a job due to COVID and 23% had work hours reduced.

Most people support the Democratic governor’s mask order overall, but this finding is driven by Democrats and Independents because more Republicans don’t support it than do. There’s a lot less support for mask-wearing in rural areas.

People are evenly divided on schools reopening (people with school age children are more likely to be supportive of reopening.)

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Jessica McBride

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