Huffpost Black Voices
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4 In 10 Black Americans Think Relationships With Police Have Gotten Worse In Last 20 Years

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FERGUSON
Police surround and detain two people in a car on Wednesday in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson is experiencing days of unrest after the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on Saturday. | Scott Olson via Getty Images

Black Americans are more likely to think blacks' relationships with police have gotten worse rather than better over the past 20 years, and only a third of blacks think relationships with police have improved in the past 50 years, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows.

Black respondents to the poll were three times more likely to say relationships with police have gotten worse rather than better over the past two decades, 42 percent to 12 percent. Thirty-nine percent of blacks said they think relationships have stayed the same over the past 20 years.

Even considering the past half-century, black Americans were evenly split, 34 percent for each, on whether their relationships with police have gotten better or worse. Twenty-five percent of black respondents said they think relationships with police have stayed about the same over the past 50 years.

The poll finds that, among all Americans, 58 percent think relationships between police and black Americans have improved in the past 50 years, but far fewer (29 percent) say there's been improvement in the past 20 years.

The poll was conducted after Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The death sparked demonstrations and led to clashes between police and protesters this week. Some observers, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), have compared those confrontations to clashes during the civil rights movement.

A 53 percent majority of all Americans think police in most big cities are tougher on blacks than on whites. Only 31 percent think police treat blacks and whites the same. Three percent said they think police are tougher on whites.

Among black respondents, 86 percent said city police are usually tougher on blacks, while 6 percent said police treat blacks and whites the same. But even white respondents were more likely to say that police are tougher on blacks than that both are treated the same, 47 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

The poll found a partisan divide on the issue, however. Sixty-nine percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents, but only 33 percent of Republicans, said that police in big cities are usually tougher on blacks.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Aug. 11-14 among 1,000 U.S. adults, including 116 black respondents, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

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.

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