Most blacks in NJ lack confidence in criminal justice system, poll finds

A Fairleigh Dickinson PublicMind Poll finds a racial divide in New Jersey residents’ confidence in the criminal justice system.

Three-quarters of white New Jersey residents surveyed trust police to treat everyone equally, but only 42 percent of blacks do, said poll director Krista Jenkins.

Meanwhile, 77 percent of whites and 45 percent of blacks trust prosecutors will treat all defendants equally.

“With racial tensions running high in the wake of a string of police shootings and other forms of brutality against black suspects, these numbers should give public officials pause,” Jenkins said. “Black residents in New Jersey don’t think they can trust the system to treat them fairly, and when we compare the numbers here to what’s been found across the United States, attitudes appear to have hardened.”

Encounters with law enforcement help explain the difference in attitudes, she said.

“We find that more than twice the number of blacks than whites believe they or someone they know have been stopped for reasons that have more to do with who they are rather than what they did, and those percentage differences are 42 percent for blacks versus 18 percent for whites,” she said.

Jenkins said partisanship is also a big predictor of New Jersey residents’ attitudes toward the criminal justice system.

“We find that Democrats are far more distrusting of the system than Republicans. By a more than two-to-one margin, Republicans say they have a lot of trust in the police compared with Democrats,” she said. “An almost three-to-one margin divides Republicans from Democrats on the issue of prosecutorial fairness.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.