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Public Shows Strong Support for Public Safety Agencies in Virginia

February 4, 2016 | Virginia News

News Image Virginia Law Enforcement Deemed to be Fair and Equitable to Citizens, Prepared to Handle Natural Disasters and Emergencies, Not As Prepared to Combat Terrorism in the Commonwealth

In recent months, law enforcement agencies in many states have taken center stage for their positive and negative actions and the commonwealth has been no different. As a result, many believe that citizens’ trust in law enforcement agencies has significantly decreased. 

The recent 2016 Commonwealth Poll: Public Safety — conducted by the Center for Public Policy at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University — found strong support for law enforcement in Virginia. More than seven out of 10 (78 percent) respondents felt that people in their local community receive fair treatment from law enforcement. Further, 83 percent were satisfied with how law enforcement in their communities solves problems and handles those who call police for help.

Though a majority of all respondents were supportive of law enforcement across all demographic and regional groups, white respondents (81 percent), those who were identified as Republican (87 percent) and those who live in the Western (81 percent) and Northern (87 percent) regions of the state were most supportive.

“Police legitimacy and public support are extremely important to maintain order and safety in our communities,” said Dr. Robyn McDougle, faculty director of the Office of Public Policy Outreach and associate professor of Criminal Justice at the VCU Wilder School. “Consequently, public perceptions of police have implications for effective policing. Virginians’ perceptions of police are very favorable, which is impressive considering many states are facing citizen outrage toward law enforcement.”

The poll was conducted in a first-ever partnership with the office of the Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security. It also showed significant citizen confidence (85 percent) in the ability of public safety agencies to prepare for and respond to a crisis and natural disasters across the state.  Virginia has weathered many storms, tornadoes and hurricanes — most recently Winter Storm Jonas — and respondents across all regions were very supportive of public safety agencies’ ability to respond effectively.

Citizens were not, however, as confident in public safety agencies’ abilities to respond to acts of terrorism in the commonwealth. Three-quarters of respondents (76 percent) indicated they were concerned with terrorist attacks occurring in Virginia, with 73 percent concerned about public safety agencies being unable to protect residents from such attacks.  

“The most recent terrorist attacks in Paris and California have kept the thoughts of attacks in the commonwealth at the forefront of most Virginians’ minds. Recent poll responses highlight the need for conversations,” McDougle said.

The 2016 Commonwealth Poll: Public Safety 2016, conducted by the Office of Public Policy Outreach in the Center for Public Policy at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), obtained telephone interviews with a representative sample of 931 adults living in Virginia. The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI). The interviews were administered from January 4 to 12, 2016. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ±3.7 percentage points.

Read the full summary of the poll »

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CONTACT: Robyn McDougle, Ph.D.
Faculty Director
Office of Public Policy Outreach
Phone: 804-828-2759
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)