The WPPA’s 10th Annual Statewide Public Perception Survey
May 4, 2022
Since launching this annual effort a decade ago, the WPPA has been the only law enforcement group in the country to consistently commission objective public polling on issues related to policing in our communities. As Wisconsin’s largest law enforcement group, we have undertaken this initiative out of a genuine desire to better understand the communities we serve and a commitment to be part of the solutions to the challenges that we collectively face as a state. Conducted by the St. Norbert College Strategic Research Institute, the WPPA’s polling has helped us take a leading and constructive role in the public dialogue on these issues, and it has provided us with an invaluable resource for our law enforcement community to listen, learn, and evolve to meet the public’s diverse expectations and needs.
The WPPA’s 2022 statewide poll strongly suggests that the public support for law enforcement is rebounding after a slight two-year dip during nationwide protests and COVID-19. Wisconsinites continue to rank public safety as the government’s number one priority, exhibit extraordinary support for law enforcement’s use of body-worn cameras, and the vast majority of the public agree that a well-funded and well-trained police force improves the overall quality of life in their community.
Notably, this year’s poll also suggests that a third of both white and minorities in Wisconsin believe that their community is becoming less safe, and both groups identified drug addiction as the “most extreme” problem in their local community. In addition, our poll indicates that a significant majority of the public believes that Wisconsin has experienced an increase in violent crime over the past year, which would be consistent with the latest crime reporting data. Review a summary of this year's key findings. Other highlights include:
- 77% of the public approve of the way their local police force is handling its job.
- Only 14% of non-white respondents indicate that police spend too much time in their neighborhoods.
- 91% of the public and a majority of both white and non-white residents agree that having a well-trained police force helps make our communities a safer place in which to live.
- 80% of the public agree that having a well-funded police force improves the overall quality of life in our communities.
- 73% of the public agree that the respect for law enforcement has decreased from a year ago.
- 70% of the public believe that Wisconsin has experienced an increase in violent crime over the past year.
- A majority of both white and minority individuals believe that having a police officer in a school increases school safety.
- A majority of the public opposes reducing their local police department’s budget to increase spending in social programs, such as mental health services and those to address homelessness.
- 67% of the public supports increasing spending for social programs, but not at the expense of their police department.
- 64% of the public support increasing local taxes for specially-trained mental health officers and 61% favor increasing local taxes to pay for body-worn cameras.
- While a majority of the minority population appears to believe that police violence against blacks or African-Americans in Wisconsin is moderately or extremely serious, it’s worth noting that this same demographic category appears to also incorrectly believe that most of the individuals shot by Wisconsin officers last year were unarmed and members of a minority group.
- Only 40% of minorities agree that of the individuals shot by police officers in Wisconsin last year were armed. Data compiled by the WPPA demonstrates that 100% of the fatal police shootings in Wisconsin last year involved armed individuals.
- 69% of minorities agree that most of the people shot by law enforcement officers in Wisconsin last year were members of a minority group. In fact, 27% of the people shot by police, or six individuals out of a total of 22, were non-white.
- Qualified Immunity: A majority of the public (54%) disagree that police officers should be held liable for monetary damages when they followed their training and didn’t knowingly violate the law.