Skip to main content

Do You Think Our Criminal Justice System Treats Black People Unfairly?

If so, then the majority of Americans now agrees with you.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

According to polling by the Public Religion Research Institute, the percentage of Americans who say that the criminal justice system treats black people unfairly rose by nine percentage points in just one year. In fact, every category of person polled was more likely to think so in 2014 than in 2013, including Republicans, people over 65, and whites.

The biggest jump was among young people between the ages of 18 and 29, 63 percent of whom believed the criminal justice system was unfair in 2014, compared to 42 percent in 2013. The smallest jump was among Democrats—just three percentage points—but they mostly thought the system was messed up to begin with.


America has a history of making changes once police violence is caught on tape and shared widely. One of the first instances was after police attacked peaceful Civil Rights marchers in Selma, Alabama. The television had just become a ubiquitous appliance and the disturbing images of brutality were hard to ignore when they flashed across living rooms.

The death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the aftermath is the likely candidate for this change. If you do a quick Google Image search for the word “ferguson,” the dominant visual story of that conflict seems solidly on the side of the protesters, not the police.

Click to see these images larger and judge for yourself:


This post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site, as “In One Year, the % of Americans Who See the Criminal Justice as Racist Rose 9 Points.”