Philadelphians have considerable respect for city police and strongly favor the stop-and-frisk policy that allows officers to stop individuals suspected of engaging in criminal activity and pat them down in a search for weapons.
But residents are less certain that police use good judgment in deciding whom to stop and frisk. Pluralities of several groups, including African Americans and young people, say they do not think good judgment is being used.
These are among the findings of a new poll from The Pew Charitable Trusts' Philadelphia Research Initiative. The survey of 1,604 Philadelphians was conducted from January 31 to February 13, 2011, by Abt SRBI Associates, working with Rutgers University Professor Cliff Zukin.
Seventy percent of Philadelphians say they have a “great deal” or a “good amount” of respect for Philadelphia police. While there are some demographic variations in the answers, respect for the police is high across the board. High levels of respect were voiced by 78 percent of whites, 65 percent of African Americans and 65 percent of Hispanics; by 82 percent of Philadelphians over age 65 and 63 percent of those between ages 18 and 34; by 83 percent of individuals with household incomes over $100,000 and 67 percent with household incomes under $30,000.
Among everyone who was polled, 63 percent had personal contact with the police in the last two years. Recalling those experiences, three-fourths say that officers' behavior was courteous, fair, respectful and professional.
As for stop and frisk, 61 percent of residents approve of the policy and 29 percent disapprove. Residents are not as confident, however, that police use good judgment in implementing the policy. Forty-three percent say that police use good judgment, 31 percent say that police do not, and the rest say it depends or have no opinion.
Attitudes on this topic varied significantly by race and age. Among whites, 57 percent say that police use good judgment in determining whom to stop and frisk while 15 percent take the opposite view. Among African Americans, 30 percent support the police on this question and 44 percent do not. Residents aged 18-34 also tilt against the police here, with 37 percent saying that officers use good judgment and 42 percent saying not.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey have made stop and frisk a key element in their fight against street crime. In November 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit challenging the policy and its implementation in Philadelphia.
By a wide margin, crime is the factor residents cited most often when asked in the poll to name one or two things they like least about living in Philadelphia. But the percentage of residents mentioning crime is substantially lower this year (29 percent) than it was two years ago (45 percent).
About the Survey
The Philadelphia Research Initiative survey was conducted by telephone between January 31 and February 13, 2011, among a citywide random sample of 1,604 city residents, ages 18 and older. Interviews were conducted with 1,202 landline users and 402 cell phone users to reach a broad representative sample of Philadelphians.
The final sample was weighted to reflect the demographic breakdown of the city. The margin of error for the entire sample is approximately +/- 2.5 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for subgroups. Surveys are subject to other error sources as well, including sampling coverage error, recording error and respondent error.
Abt SRBI Public Affairs designed the survey and conducted all interviewing, working with Cliff Zukin, veteran pollster and professor of political science and public policy at Rutgers University.
This report was written by Larry Eichel, project director of the Initiative, in consultation with Zukin.