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June National Poll: Voters Want Justice for George Floyd as Trust in Police is Split

As protesters in all 50 states have come out against the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, an overwhelming 87% of American voters feel that the officer should face criminal charges, with only 4% saying he should not face charges, and 9% being unsure. (N=1,431, +/-2.5%, MM, registered voters, June 2-3, 2020).

Of those who believe the officer should face charges, 43% say first-degree murder charges would be appropriate, and 26% say second-degree murder charges. Only 13% of respondents believe that third-degree murder is the appropriate charge, with manslaughter charges being favored by 8% of respondents. Eleven percent (11%) are unsure on the appropriate charge.

Trust in the police nationally is split, with 43% saying they trust the police to protect the country’s people without prejudice, 39% saying they do not trust the police to do this, and 19% being unsure.


Regarding the other officers that were at the scene of Floyd’s death, 40% of voters say these officers should face murder charges, 41% say they should face accesory to murder charges, and 6% say they should not face any criminal charges. Twelve percent (12%) of voters are undecided on whether these officers should face criminal charges.

When asked if they approved of the federal government bringing civil rights charges against Officer Chauvin, 71% indicated they would approve of this, 13% say they would disapprove, and 17% were neutral.

Voters are more split in their approval of the protests and instances of looting happening across the country. Regarding the protests, 46% approve and 38% disapprove of the protests, with 16% being neutral. When it comes to looting and other acts of destroying property as a means of protest, 17% approve, 76% disapprove, and 8% are neutral. In the instance of a Minneapolis police precinct being burned down, 65% believe this was not a justified form of protest, 22% believe it was, 9% were unsure, and 4% had not heard of the incident.

Whether or not the protesting will lead to change and a reduction of police brutality is also split, with a plurality (36%) of voters being unsure that police brutality instances will decrease. Thirty-five percent (35%) have faith that police brutality will be reduced, and 29% believe it will not.

A plurality (45%) believe that race relations today are better than they were during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, but 25% think that race relations today are worse, and 30% believe things have stayed the same. 

Thinking towards the future, a majority (54%) believe that race relations will improve, 25% think things will worsen, and 26% believe things will stay the same.

Spencer Kimball, Director of Emerson College Polling notes that “while a majority (55%) of our society does not see current race relations as having improved since the Civil Rights era, a majority (54%) is also optimistic in believing that race relations will improve in the coming future.”

A majority (64%) of voters believe that the police in the country treat white individuals better than minority individuals, with 28% believing both groups face equal treatment, and 8% believing that white individuals are treated worse by the police.

President Trump has a 43% approval and 50% disapproval rating, moving slightly up from last month’s 41% approval rating. However, Trump’s approval rating regarding his response to George Floyd’s death and the following protests is lower, at 36% approval and 47% disapproval. 

Trump trails in a head to head matchup against the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, 47% to 43%, with 10% undecided. 

When asked to decide, those undecided voters leaned towards Biden 56% to 44%, which would extend his lead to 53% to 47%.

Despite this, a majority of voters think Trump will be re-elected (53% to 46%)

When it comes to their level of excitement, 69% of Trump voters are extremely or very excited to support him, with 19% being mildly excited and only 12% reporting not that excited.

This is a higher rate of excitement than that of Biden voters, where 55% are extremely or very excited to support him, 24% mildly excited and 22% reporting not that excited.

Regarding the candidates’ favorability numbers, 45% have a favorable opinion of Biden, with 37% having an unfavorable opinion. This is slightly higher than Trump, who has 40% of voters viewing him favorably, with 52% viewing him unfavorably.


Caller ID

The June National Emerson College/Nexstar Media poll was conducted June 2-3, 2020. The sample consisted of registered Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters, n=1431, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 2.5 percentage points. The data sets were weighted by age, ethnicity, education, and party based on 2016 election turnout. It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, age, party breakdown, ethnicity, and region carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. Data was collected using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines (n=688) and an online panel provided by MTurk (n=743).







Key Takeaways
  • Voters support protests, but disapprove of destruction of property and looting
  • Majority (55%) of Americans think race relations are the same or worse than in the 1960s
  • Biden's lead over President Trump tightens
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While a majority (55%) of our society does not see current race relations as having improved since the Civil Rights era, a majority (54%) is also o...
Spencer KimballEmerson College Polling director
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