Charles Franklin, who helms the widely-respected Marquette Law School poll in Wisconsin, has released a detailed series of findings on attitudes of Wisconsin voters toward BLM, the police and related issues. I strongly recommend perusing his findings for a sense of how these attitudes have been evolving recently in a key swing state. It is sobering.
Note that their most recent poll was taken before the Kenosha events and thus these findings do not reflect the extent to which attitudes toward BLM may have become more negative (or positive) in reaction to these events.
Here are the key findings:
1. Approval of BLM has dropped sharply in the state between mid-June and mid-August
"In June approval of protests was widespread, with 61 percent approving of the protests and 36 percent disapproving. Approval declined in August with 48 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving.
Approval remained strong among Black or Hispanic respondents and in the City of Milwaukee, but declined among white respondents and in the four media-market regions of the state outside the city of Milwaukee. Approval also declined in each of five urban-suburban categories including cities, suburbs, exurbs, small towns and rural areas. In August more respondents approved than disapproved in cities. Suburban areas, which were substantially net positive in June, became net negative on approval in August, though not as negative as exurban, small towns or rural areas. Net approval also declined across all three categories of party identification, with the largest declines among Republicans."
2. Wisconsin voters are very favorable toward the police.
"Wisconsin respondents are extremely favorable toward the police, including 44 percent of Black or Hispanic respondents and 78 percent of white respondents in the June and August data combined.
There was a small increase in favorable views of the police between June and August, with increases across almost all groups and geographies. Small declines in the north and west and in exurbs occurred in groups with very high favorability in both months."
3. Wisconsin voters overwhelmingly oppose defunding the police.
"Large majorities oppose calls to defund the police. In June a bare majority (51 percent) of Black or Hispanic respondents supported defunding but this reversed in August with a larger majority opposed. In no region of the state does a majority support defunding and no partisan group has majority support."
4. Wisconsin voters overwhelming support reforming the policy and increasing accountability.
"Unlike defunding, there is overwhelming support to “restructure the role of the police and require greater accountability for police misconduct.” Eighty-one percent support restructuring, with 16 percent opposed. These large majorities hold across racial, geographic and political divides, including support by two-thirds of Republicans."
There's lots more there, with some very nice, detailed tables so I recommend checking out the entire document.
Will these trends, combined with recent events in the state, result in a backlash that hurts Biden and the Democrats? There are two things that can be said about this. The first is that so far, both in Wisconsin and nationally, declining support for BLM does not appear to have hurt Biden electorally.
The second is that the possibility of anti-Democratic backlash remains. We do not know how the riots and visuals of burning buildings will net out in Wisconsin when ranged against the police shooting of Jacob Blake and the killing of protesters by a right wing vigilante. Possibly support for BLM will rise again. But possibly it will continue to fall to the point where it starts to be a drag on the Biden-Harris ticket.
Biden's support for peaceful protests but clear condemnation of protest violence may help forestall this. So might a stoppage of violence associated with the protests. But it's early days and the situation is volatile, both on the ground and in the court of public opinion.