Black Chris­tians over­whelm­ing­ly say police treat­ment is biased against them. Why don’t white evan­gel­i­cals believe them?

Do police offi­cers gen­er­al­ly treat black and white Amer­i­cans alike?

White evan­gel­i­cals are more like­ly to say “yes” than any oth­er major reli­gious demo­graph­ic in the Unit­ed States. Black Protes­tants are most like­ly to dis­agree.

This rift has appeared repeat­ed­ly in sur­veys on Amer­i­can polic­ing over the past five years, as have dis­par­i­ties in how these two groups under­stand high-pro­file police killings of black men and in how police make them feel. The num­bers are strik­ing:

  • A 2015 poll from the Pub­lic Reli­gion Research Insti­tute (PRRI) found white evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tants were the only major reli­gious group in which a major­i­ty (62%) said police gen­er­al­ly treat white and black peo­ple equal­ly. Only 20 per­cent of minor­i­ty Protes­tants agreed.
  • Sur­vey data from Pew Research Cen­ter and the Bay­lor Reli­gion Sur­vey in 2017 showed that gap between white evan­gel­i­cals and black Protes­tants was intact two years lat­er.
  • The same 2015 PRRI poll found 6 in 10 white evan­gel­i­cals called high-pro­file police killings of black men iso­lat­ed inci­dents; 7 in 10 minor­i­ty Protes­tants said they see a broad­er pat­tern.
  • In a 2018 poll by PRRI, the iso­lat­ed inci­dent vs. broad­er pat­tern con­trast was stark­er: Now 7 in 10 white evan­gel­i­cals said the deaths were iso­lat­ed inci­dents, while 84 per­cent of black Protes­tants said there’s a pat­tern.
  • And the 2018 Coop­er­a­tive Con­gres­sion­al Elec­tion Sur­vey showed white evan­gel­i­cals and black Protes­tants were, of 16 reli­gious demo­graph­ics, fur­thest apart on whether the police make them feel safe or unsafe.

The lat­est of these polls (the most recent I’ve found) is two years old, and it’s pos­si­ble opin­ions have shift­ed some, espe­cial­ly over the past few weeks, as the police killing of George Floyd in …

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