The majority of Marylanders back state lawmakers’ attempts at police reform, including making police misconduct cases publicly available, having police undergo racial bias training and banning the use of chokeholds or strangleholds during arrests, a new poll found.
The poll released Monday by Goucher College notes although slightly more than half support reducing the police budget in favor of better funding social programs, only 28 percent support the “defund the police” movement. In comparison, 68 percent oppose it.
However, about 79 percent of the 1,002 adults surveyed in the poll support increasing funds for police departments to hire more or better-trained officers. Only 19 percent oppose it.
The push by criminal justice advocates to “defund the police” only received support from 28 percent of those polled, compared to 68 percent who oppose it.
“That disconnect shows there are various definitions what people actually mean by ‘defund the police,’” Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, said in an interview. “It has become very politically charged. This is an example of how the words we use matter. On the surface, it looks like a conflicting story, but when you take a look at it holistically, there is support for having better policing and a recognition that something needs to change. There’s a conflict on how to get there.”
Most Marylanders are in support of several reforms under review by state lawmakers, such as:
– an independent state prosecutor to investigate police misconduct cases instead of an internal affairs division, backed by 85 percent of poll participants.
– the creation of statewide de-escalation and use-of-force policies for all police departments, supported by 79 of those polled.
Nearly the same number of Marylanders have a favorable view of police and the Black Lives Matter movement at 66 percent and 65 percent, respectively.
However, the breakdown differs among racial lines. About 54 percent of Blacks view police positively, compared to 73 percent of whites. Regarding Black Lives Matter, 85 percent of Blacks and 56 percent of whites favor the movement.
Geographically, Prince George’s County recorded the highest percentage of support for at least three initiatives: requiring a state prosecutor handle criminal cases over a police department’s internal affairs division (97 percent), requiring police experience racial bias training (93 percent), and creating statewide use-of-force policies (91 percent).
The other majority-Black jurisdiction of Baltimore City recorded the highest figure (51 percent) of support of defunding police, which advocates have said means reallocating money from the police budget to social programs such as housing, education and mental health services.
Prince George’s had the third-lowest amount (26 percent) in support of defunding police among the poll, which divided the state into six regions — Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore counties; Baltimore City; Central – Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties; Western Maryland, Eastern Shore and southern counties.
Elsewhere, the poll found that 71 percent of participants approve of Larry Hogan’s job as governor, while only 23 percent disapproved.
About 30 percent say the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is the most important issue facing the state today. Economic issues came in second at 22 percent and education third at 8 percent.
In Prince George’s, both the coronavirus and economics both ranked second at 32 percent each. Education finished a distant third at 5 percent.
The poll conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 4 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.