Black Lives Matter supported by 51% of young white Americans – poll

© Aaron P. Bernstein
Fifty-one percent of white Americans ages 18 to 30 strongly or somewhat support the Black Lives Matter movement, according to a new poll. The movement has more support among African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos/Latinas of the same age group.

In a GenForward survey of 1,958 young adults from August 1 to 14, the Black Lives Matter movement was supported by 85 percent of African Americans, 67 percent of Asian Americans, 62 percent of Latinos/Latinas, and 51 percent of white Americans. Monthly GenForward surveys are conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with support from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The support of the movement among white Americans ages 18 to 30 jumped 10 points from June to August. GenForward polls have been conducted in June, July, and August. Forty-two percent of white Americans said they did not support the movement in the latest survey. 

Black Lives Matter has developed as a decentralized, social-media-driven movement since the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, by George Zimmerman in 2012, and amid high-profile police killings in recent years of unarmed black victims such as Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

While support of the movement is rising among young white Americans, 66 percent of them surveyed in August said the movement's "rhetoric … encourages violence against police." Forty-three percent of Asian Americans agreed, along with 42 percent of Latinos/Latinas and 19 percent of African Americans.

White Americans (43 percent) are also far less likely to believe the killing of black people by police is a "very serious problem" than African Americans (91 percent), Latino/as (71 percent), and Asian Americans (63 percent). Four in 10 white people surveyed said the killing of black people by police is part of a larger pattern of systemic racism, while a majority of African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos/Latinas identified the killings as part of a systemic problem.

The survey found that young adults in all racial and ethnic groups believe the police do not treat all groups equally. Yet young adults in each racial and ethnic group were "more likely than everyone else to believe police mistreat their group," GenForward found.

African Americans and white Americans reported similar rates of police stops, yet African Americans were three times as likely to report being harassed by cops and almost twice as likely to report being arrested.

White Americans surveyed were less likely than other groups to agree that "setting stricter criteria for use of deadly force by officers" and "limiting police use of military equipment" would be effective deterrents of police violence.

White Americans also said Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would be best to "handle police violence against African Americans" while Republican candidate Donald Trump would better "handle attacks against police." All other groups surveyed supported Clinton in both categories.

While African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos/Latinas strongly favor Clinton in the November election, white Americans are evenly split between Clinton and Trump. Overall, the young adults surveyed preferred Clinton to Trump by a 39-19 percent margin.

Meanwhile, 46 percent of Latinos/Latinas, 38 percent of African Americans, 36 percent of Asian Americans, and 31 percent of white Americans said they were uncertain if they will vote.

Thirty-nine percent of white Americans surveyed support building a wall along the Mexican border, as opposed to 25 percent of African Americans and even lower totals among other groups. Forty-seven percent of white Americans supported deporting all immigrants in the US illegally, while 37 percent of African Americans, 31 percent of Asian Americans, and 20 percent of Latinos/Latinas agreed.

The GenForward Survey bills itself as "the first of its kind" that "pays special attention to how race and ethnicity shape how respondents experience and think about the world."