Poll: Americans support George Floyd protests, disapprove of Trump’s response

16th Street remains closed to traffic as demonstrators protest, Monday, June 8, 2020, near the White House in Washington, over the Minneapolis police-custody death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A new poll finds a large majority of Americans — including a majority of Republicans — support the protests that have sprung up across the U.S., including in the D.C. area, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last month. A solid majority also disapproved of the way President Donald Trump has responded in recent days.

The poll by The Washington Post and the Schar School at George Mason University found that 74% of those surveyed said they supported the protests that started after Floyd’s death May 25. That includes 87% of Democrats, 76% of independents and 53% of Republicans.

Meanwhile, Trump’s handling of the protests draws 61% disapproval in the poll, including 47% strong disapproval. The percentage of people polled who approved of Trump’s handling was 35%.

People’s opinions on the protests don’t track neatly with the question of whether they perceive of the protests as being mostly violent or mostly peaceful.

Answers to that question were basically split along party lines, with independents being roughly equally divided on the question. But, even a majority — 53% — of the people who considered the protests mostly violent still supported them.

Two-thirds of respondents said blame for the violence fell to “others acting irresponsibly,” as opposed to 10% blaming the protesters and 14% blaming the police.

The pollsters compared their results with an earlier survey and found a shift in attitudes toward policing in general.

More than two-thirds of Americans — 69% — said that Floyd’s killing was a symptom of a broad problem in law enforcement, while only 29% called Floyd’s killing an isolated incident.

That’s in contrast to a 2014 poll conducted in the wake of the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City. In a poll conducted then, 51% of respondents said the deaths were isolated incidents, while 43% considered them evidence of wider problems.

Despite the solid majorities in the poll, Republicans find themselves the outliers on a lot of questions: 72% of Republicans approve of the way Trump has responded to the protests; 65% say the protests have been mostly violent; and 72% say the police haven’t used enough force in responding to looting and vandalism.

The poll was conducted among 1,006 adults on phones, with 70% of respondents on cellphones and 30% on landlines. The margin of error is ± 3.5%, more for results among subgroups.

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