Most Americans Still Have Faith In The Police, Poll Finds

Long exposure to capture the full array of police car lights. 12MP camera.
Long exposure to capture the full array of police car lights. 12MP camera.

Despite all the stories about police violence and bad behavior in federal law enforcement, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey shows that most Americans still trust the agencies tasked with upholding the nation's laws.

Majorities of the poll respondents said they have a "great deal" or "fair amount" of trust in their local police department and in police nationwide, as well as in the FBI. Americans were a bit less trusting of three other federal agencies, though around half expressed similar support for the CIA, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Secret Service.

Following the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson last summer, nationwide attention has focused on issues of police brutality, accountability and militarization. Yet according to the poll, overall confidence in police remains high.

When asked about their local police department, 25 percent of respondents said they have a "great deal" of trust in those officers, while 36 percent said they had a "fair amount" of trust. As for police officers nationwide, 19 percent said they have a "great deal" of trust and 37 percent said they have a "fair amount." White Americans were more likely to support the police, with 67 percent indicating some level of trust in their local police and 63 percent saying the same for police nationwide. Black Americans expressed considerably less support, with 36 percent indicating some level of trust in their local police and only 27 percent saying the same for police nationwide.

While the latest survey shows a general faith in police institutions, another poll taken earlier in April suggested that Americans don't necessarily hold law enforcement in especially high regard. In that Economist/YouGov survey, only 11 percent said they believed police officers were more honest than most people. Sixty-one percent said police officers were equally as honest, and 24 percent said they were less honest.

The FBI was the most trusted among the federal agencies in the HuffPost survey, with 63 percent saying they have at least some trust in the bureau. The poll was being conducted as news broke about longstanding flaws in the FBI's forensic hair analysis.

The CIA and the Secret Service fared worst among federal agencies, with just 50 percent saying they have trust in the nation's spies and 49 percent saying they have trust in the president's protecters. The Secret Service has been at the center of several high-profile scandals dating back to 2012, when an investigation revealed that agents had partied with prostitutes in Colombia just days before President Barack Obama was set to arrive for a summit. More recent security breaches and questions of agent conduct led the service's director to resign last year.

The DEA has its own prostitution scandal, highlighted in a Justice Department report that found agents had attended "sex parties" allegedly funded by cartel members. While the survey was conducted after that news broke -- though before this week's announcement that DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart is set to resign -- 52 percent of Americans said they had at least some trust in the drug agency. A bipartisan group of lawmakers suggested earlier this month that they were less trusting, releasing a statement declaring no confidence in Leonhart's leadership.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted April 16-20 among U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the poll's methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov's reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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