Black, White, and Blue: Americans’ Attitudes on Race and Police

Since the events in Ferguson last summer, pollsters have exhibited a renewed interest in the relationships between race and policing. Extensive public opinion research over the last year has shown stark differences in how blacks and whites perceive the police, differences documented in survey research going back to polling conducted in response to the Kerner Commission report on the 1967 race riots. Now the Ferguson Commission report has been released, and polls provide a clear picture of areas of likely agreement and disagreement between blacks and whites on its recommendations. A review of polling on black and white attitudes on
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Wages of Win: The Public and the Minimum Wage Debate

Hillary Clinton has suggested $12. Bernie Sanders favors $15. Donald Trump says he thinks a low one is good for the country. Jeb Bush doesn’t think the federal government should be setting one at all. The minimum wage is proving a contentious issue in the current presidential race. Public opinion polling over the decades indicates that some candidates may have found a powerful issue in line with longstanding public attitudes, while others will struggle to convince the public to see it their way. From the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research archives: Setting the standards The early years of modern
Virginia Tech shooting

Shootings, Guns and Public Opinion

Last week the country was shocked by the on-air shooting of a reporter and cameraman – shocked, but perhaps not surprised. Gun violence has become an all-too-common part of the news, and after each incident, a debate erupts over gun control. Public opinion data over more than fifty years reveals a country ever less willing to restrict gun ownership, even as mass shootings and other high-profile shooting incidents continue to make news. From the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research archives: Tragedy in the news. Again. Gun-related homicide deaths have been decreasing in number since the 1990s. But the number
Rebuilding after disasters

Rebuilding after Disasters: The Public’s View

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding continues. Indeed, rebuilding carries on in communities all over the country – in New York and New Jersey coastal neighborhoods hit by Sandy, in western towns destroyed by wildfires, in the Irene-ravaged small towns along the rivers of Vermont. After Superstorm Sandy wreaked her destruction, the New York Times fretted that “tax money will go toward putting things back as they were, essentially duplicating the vulnerability that existed before the hurricane.” Experts may be concerned about this cycle of devastation and reconstruction, but what does the public think? From the Roper Center for
Conspiracy theory

The Truth (about Americans’ Belief in Conspiracy Theories) Is Out There

Tabloid headlines, internet comment threads, that one uncle at Thanksgiving dinner: conspiracy theories are everywhere. Polls reveal the truth – the truth about what the public believes, that is. While some conspiracy theories are dismissed by the vast majority of the public, others are widely accepted as true. A look at belief in American conspiracy theories, from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research archives. Hitler’s not dead The first questions in a public opinion poll about a conspiracy theory centered around the death of Hitler. Although the Soviets had quickly confirmed via dental records that the remains collected in Berlin
Obama and a third term?

Presidential Third Terms

Addressing the African Union last month, Barack Obama said, “I actually think I’m a pretty good president. I think if I ran, I could win. But I can’t.” Obama is prevented from re-election by the 22nd Amendment, which has limited Presidents to two terms since 1951. The public is supportive of this restriction, but more divided in their perception of the effect of the two-term cap on presidential second terms. From the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research Archives: FDR: Happy Days Are Here Again – and Again George Washington established the standard that presidents would limit themselves to two
African-American man voting

Public Opinion on the Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights legislation that provided federal oversight of voting in states where evidence of minority voter suppression existed, was passed on August 6, 1965. Nearly fifty years later, in 2013, the Supreme Court struck down key provisions at the heart of the law, stating that “our country has changed.” Public opinion polling on voting rights over the last seventy-five years show a country united in a desire to see the right to vote protected, but divided in their beliefs about how to achieve that goal  - or whether the goal has been reached already.
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Birth control pills

Public Attitudes about Birth Control

Fifty years ago, just five years after the FDA approved the first birth control pill, the Supreme Court struck down a Connecticut state law that prohibited the use of "any drug, medicinal article, or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception,” thereby making birth control legal nationwide for married couples. Public opinion was on the Court’s side in Griswold v. Connecticut, but public controversies over contraceptives have continued to this day. A history of public opinion about birth control, from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research Archive: From popular movement to legality The first public opinion question about birth
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Confederate flag flying over the capital building in South Carolina

Public Opinion on the Confederate Flag and the Civil War

The Confederate flag is gone from the South Carolina statehouse. But public opinion on the meaning of the symbols of the Confederacy remains divided along racial and regional lines, part of a larger disagreement over the significance of the Civil War revealed in multiple polls over the last quarter-century. From the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research archives: A divisive symbol A 1991 poll of Southerners was the first to ask what the Confederate flag symbolized to the public. The vast majority of whites thought that the flag was a symbol of Southern pride, while a majority of blacks thought
President Lyndon Johnson signs the 1965 US Immigration Act

Huddled Masses: Public Opinion & the 1965 U.S. Immigration Act

The landmark U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which shifted the criteria for admission of immigrants from a system of country quotas to the prioritization of family reunification and occupational skills, is now fifty years old. Public opinion polls from before, during, and after the 1965 debate reveal ongoing concerns about how the country chooses which immigrants become Americans and how different immigrant groups affect the nation. From the Roper Center for Public Opinion research archives: Attitudes about Immigration before 1965 Questions about concerns regarding the ethnic makeup of immigrants to the United States were asked from the very
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