Americans’ trust in the Black Lives Matter movement has fallen and their faith in local law enforcement has risen since protests demanding social justice swept the nation last year, according to an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll.
The debate over the intersection of racism and policing will be in the spotlight again as jury selection opens Monday in the Minneapolis trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide marches last year.
The survey finds complicated and shifting views about Chauvin’s actions and broader questions of race. On many issues, there is a chasm in the perspective between Black people and white people.
Last June, 60% in a USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll described Floyd’s death as murder; that percentage has now dropped by double digits to 36%. Uncertainty has grown about how to characterize the incident, caught on video, when Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck and ignored his protests that he couldn’t breathe. Last year, 4% said they didn’t know how to describe it; that number has climbed to 17%.
“There were eight minutes that the officer could have made a different decision, and he willfully held a man,” said Valda Pugh, a 67-year-old retiree from Louisville who is Black. She was among those surveyed. “It was a murder. It was willful – maybe not premeditated. Nonetheless, the young man died.”
Kevin Hayworth, 66, of Garner, Iowa, who is white, disagreed. “I think it was a police officer doing his job,” he said in a follow-up phone interview. “It was just a tragedy, but I think he was within the limits of his duty of jurisdiction.”