According to a new poll by ABC News and Ipsos, a majority of Democrats now support defunding the police.
When asked the question, “Do you support or oppose the movement to ‘defund the police’?” 55 percent of Democrats said they supported it. In contrast, only 9 percent of Republicans were in favor. Overall, just under two-thirds of Americans oppose defunding the police. Independents were similarly against the movement, with 67 percent opposed.
The survey also asked respondents whether they would support “reducing the budget of the police department in your community, even if that means fewer police officers, if the money is shifted to programs related to mental health, housing, and education.” Sixty percent of all respondents were against the idea. Among Democrats, however, 59 percent supported such a change.
Respondents’ positions on defunding the police were also significantly divided by race and age. Fifty-seven percent of African-Americans said they supported the “defund the police” movement, compared with 42 percent of Hispanics and only 26 percent of whites.
Support for defunding the police also decreases with age. Of respondents aged 18-29, 46 percent were in support, compared with 42 percent of Americans aged 30-49, 26 percent of those 50-64, and 19 percent of those over 64.
Despite the shift in their party, Democratic leaders have attempted to distance themselves from the “defund the police” movement. Most significantly, the party’s presidential nominee came out against it earlier this week. A campaign spokesman said on Monday that Biden “does not believe that police should be defunded.”
Former presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris has refused to take a stance, twice answering the question of whether she supports defunding the police by vaguely describing her desire to “reimagine” American public safety.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also dodged questions on the issue, responding to the discussion with the non-answer “there are all kinds of ways that we can come at this,” and insisting “let’s not get into these questions that may be from the small minds of some, as far as safety is concerned.”
As a majority of Democratic voters are now in favor of the “defund the police” movement, however, Democratic leaders may be pressured to change their tune. If they do, Biden would have to reconcile such a radical position with his long history of law enforcement ties. In 1994, Biden helped create the crime bill that earned him the nickname “Architect of Mass Incarceration” from Sen. Cory Booker.
Scenes in Minnesota have already shown what can happen to Democratic politicians who don’t give in to chants of “defund the police.” Progressive Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was booed out of a protest for refusing to completely endorse the movement.
As Election Day approaches, the Democratic Party will have to double down on one side of the issue or the other. And now that more than half of their voter base supports defunding the police, Biden et al. may not be able to afford the dismissive approach they’ve taken so far.