Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos Hidden Common GroundTM Survey Seeks Solutions on Race and Police Reform in America

Survey Finds Areas of Agreement that Cross Political and Racial Lines

New York, NY (June 29, 2020) — Recent murders of Black men and women have intensified an overdue examination of the role race plays in almost every aspect of our history and contemporary society. In order to further understand where Americans stand in the wake of these killings and how they want to move forward with substantive change, the June 2020 Public Agenda Hidden Common GroundTM/USA Today/Ipsos snapshot survey, “Hidden Common Ground: Race and Police Reform in America” asked 1,113 adults about a range of topics related to police reform and race in America. The survey was conducted between June 18-22, 2020.

The survey found that most Americans want at least some change to policing or law enforcement, including 55% of Americans who want major change or to redesign it completely. Very few Americans, just 7%, want the current policing system to stay the same. 

“The research shows that there is significant common ground, across partisan and racial lines, on a number of important ways of addressing to the problem of police brutality against Black Americans, as well as several areas where there are disagreements that we, as a nation, need to discuss,” said Will Friedman, President of Public Agenda “We hope the findings contribute to the profound reckoning the country is undergoing around race, policing, and equal justice.”

Four in five Democrats (81%) and Black or African Americans (79%) and Hispanic Americans (70%) want major changes or a complete redesign of current policing and law enforcement practices, nearly double the share of Independents (46%) or white Americans (47%) and more than three times the share of Republicans (26%).

The long-troubled relationship between police and Black citizens in communities has been under particular scrutiny in recent months. Most Americans (58%) say racial bias against Black or African Americans committed by police and law enforcement is a serious problem in their community, including 75% of Democrats and 51% of Independents as well as 40% of Republicans. However, there are differences in how groups view this bias, whether it is part of a larger, systemic problem or the actions of outliers within police ranks. One third of Americans (36%) feel that police using excessive force against Black or African Americans is a widespread problem within policing and law enforcement, including most Democrats (58%) and Black or African Americans (68%).  But two thirds of Republicans (66%) and a plurality of white Americans (43%) say the vast majority of police officers treat everyone fairly regardless of race.

“There is significant agreement across the political spectrum and across racial/ethnic groups on several measures to reduce police use of excessive force against Black Americans,” said David Schleifer, Vice President and Director of Research at Public Agenda. “These findings tell us that there are concrete, positive police reform steps on which a high percentage of Americans agree.”

A variety of transparency measures appeal to most Americans, including creating a public database of officers who have used excessive force to stop them from being rehired elsewhere and requiring public reporting of all incidents of force within 72 hours. Nearly all Americans support officers wearing and using body cameras when on duty (94% of Republicans, 91% of Democrats, and 86% of Independents; 92% of white Americans, 87% of Black or African Americans). Around nine in ten Democrats (92%) and Republicans (91%) and 84% of Independents support the idea of community policing, in which police officers work closely with communities to understand their concerns and to find ways to protect public safety together. Nearly all white and Black or African Americans would support this as well (90% and 89%, respectively).

The debate over police department budgets was one area where the Public Agenda survey found  stark differences of opinion. A third of Americans (35%) say money should be diverted from police budgets to social services such as social workers, addiction services or job training. But a third of Americans (34%) say police budgets should be increased to increase the number of officers and to provide more training. The rest either say  police budgets should stay the same or do not know. More Black or African Americans (57%) than white (29%) Americans think money should be diverted from police budgets to social services., with Hispanic Americans falling in between. In terms of party divisions, just over half of Democrats (56%) support diverting money from police budgets to social services, while just over half of Republicans (54%) and a third of Independents (34%) think police budgets should increase.

These are the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between June 18-22, 2020 on behalf of Public Agenda and USA Today. For this survey, a sample of 1,113 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points for all respondents.

Read the full report: Hidden Common Ground: Race and Police Reform in America 

Read Public Agenda’s recent statement on racial equity and healthy democracies.

Hidden Common Ground is an initiative spearheaded by Public Agenda and USA Today and whose partners include America Amplified, the National Issues ForumIpsos, and Vote.org. It is supported by a diverse group of foundations, including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundationthe Charles Koch FoundationCarnegie Corporation of New York, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, as well as by individual donors. The Kettering Foundation serves as a research partner to the initiative. The aim is to explore the possibility that there is more common ground among the public on solutions to today’s issues than is typically acknowledged and leveraged for the common good, and, to the extent this is true, to elevate that common ground in the public discourse during the election year. Forthcoming Hidden Common Ground 2020 studies will explore race and policing, immigration, voting, and economic opportunity. 

About Public Agenda

Public Agenda is a nonpartisan research and public engagement organization dedicated to a healthy, just, and effective democracy. We support informed citizens, engaged communities, and responsive public institutions. We also elevate diverse voices, build common ground and foster progress on issues of concern to the American public. These include K-12 education, higher education, health care, economic opportunity, and democracy reform. Find Public Agenda online at PublicAgenda.org, and on social media at FB@publicagenda/Twitter@publicagenda/Instagram@publicagenda_.


Founded in 1982, USA TODAY reflects the pulse of the nation, serving as host of the American conversation by delivering high-quality, engaging content through unique visual storytelling across all platforms. A media innovator, USA TODAY reaches nearly 100 million unique visitors each month across digital platforms, with more than 125 million downloads of our award-winning app. USA TODAY also remains the nation’s number one newspaper and is owned by Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI).

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people. Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has been listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

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