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Abstract

This paper examines American national public opinion on crime and the American police force. The data were gathered from published opinion polls of national samples of adults taken from 1972-1999. The findings reveal that Americans have contradictory perceptions regarding crime in their area, crime in our nation, confidence in the police, and the honesty of the nation's police officers. A growing number of respondents report that crime seems to be decreasing; however, a majority of Americans still report that there is more crime in their area than there was a year ago. These are only a few examples of the complexity of American public opinion. Adding to this intricate web of American opinion and attitude is the issue of ethnicity. National polls indicate that most Americans are satisfied with police honesty and ethics. However, when we control for ethnicity, minorities rate the honesty and ethical standards of police officers much lower than do White Americans. Nevertheless, despite the widespread media reports of erosion in trust in the police, a solid majority of Americans consistently express confidence in and support of the police. These findings are discussed in light of the apparent contradiction of the actual crime rates and perceived crime rates.

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