What Difference at This Point Did It Make? – Day 4

In our continuing series of posts following the 2016 Conventions, today, we are looking at attitudes about the state of law and order in America, a recurrent theme of the GOP Convention last month following a period of violence and unrest across the country.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News August poll* repeated a question first asked by the Harris Survey in August 1968. The question was asked following a series of national tragedies, including the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April of that year, the riots across the country that followed that same month, the assassination of Robert Kennedy in June, as well as a spate of deadly confrontations between the Black Panther Party and police officers that spanned the summer.

Following these tragic events, the Harris Survey found that 81{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Americans felt that law and order in America had “broken down.” This sentiment persisted among 70{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Americans surveyed by Harris in January of 1971.

From December 2015 through July 2016 the nation’s attention was brought to several instances of police shootings of unarmed black men and subsequent riots across the country. Over the same eight months, there were six separate domestic terrorist attacks on civilians and/or police officers in San Bernardino, California, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Columbus, Ohio, Orlando, Florida, Bristol Tennessee, and Dallas, Texas. Following this tumultuous period of violence and unrest, in August, The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found a majority (53{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of voters agree that law and order in America has broken down.

While comparatively much less prominent a sentiment than in 1968 or 1971, the partisan split on this question speaks to the underlying division in our national politics – 70{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Trump voters and 54{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Gary Johnson voters on a 4-way ballot felt that law and order has broken down in America, while only 38{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Clinton voters felt the same.

However, even as racial tensions clearly persist in America, there was no difference in attitudes on this issue between Whites and African-Americans, with 52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of each saying law and order has broken down.

Law and Order by 4-Way Ballot and Ethnicity

4-way ballot

*The NBCWSJ poll is conducted by the firms of Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates. The views expressed in this blog are those of Micah Roberts and not necessarily shared by Hart Research Associates or NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

Public Opinion Strategies