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Not Just a Popularity Contest: Factors That Influence Public Opinion of the Police, Interim Report.

NCJ Number
Date Published
22 pages
Through a survey of Los Angeles residents, the authors of this report present primary influences on public opinion of police performance.
Discussing principle influences on public opinion of police performance, this study presents the results of a mail survey conducted with residents in four areas within the city of Los Angeles. Arguing that there is often an ambivalent relationship between community residents and police officers, the authors discuss community members’ direct experience with the police and residents’ expectations of their public safety in order to ascertain factors contributing to public opinion of the police department. After presenting a brief literature review on prior studies of factors influencing attitudes towards police officers, this report argues that by asking residents whether police officers do a good job, have a respectful and trustworthy demeanor, and if the police use more force than necessary, individuals’ direct experiences and expectations of police officers can be measured. Survey findings indicate that greater amounts of informal police contact and low levels of police victimization lead residents to have favorable opinions of local police work. Respondents who perceive that there neighborhood is safe also hold more positive opinions concerning police officers. Furthermore, despite police perceptions, the media is not a source of negative opinion concerning the Los Angeles Police Department, except with regard to police use of force. A series of tables illustrating survey results completes this report. 20 Endnotes

Date Published: January 1, 1999