Sun, Aug 14, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Poll shows public back police more than politicians

The Guardian, LONDON

UK voters back the police rather than British Prime Minister David Cameron over the handling of riots, according to a Guardian/ICM poll. It shows that under a third of voters think Cameron has done a good job — while overall trust in the police’s fairness remains strong.

The poll, carried out online this week as politicians and the police became increasingly critical of each other’s performance, suggests neither Cameron nor the London Mayor Boris Johnson have impressed the public with their response.

Only 30 percent said Cameron has done a good job, against 44 percent who said the opposite, a net score of negative-14. For Johnson, the figures are 28 percent good job and 38 percent bad, a negative of 10 points. By contrast, 45 percent think that the acting commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, Tim Godwin, has done well against 27 percent who said the opposite — a positive score of 18.

Another online poll conducted this week by YouGov found similar levels of support for the police response over that of politicians. There is some evidence — on a smaller and therefore less precise sub-sample — that Londoners judge Johnson less harshly than the rest of the country. In the capital, his net negative score is only negative-3.

Despite the scale of the rioting and accusations that the police mishandled the initial disorder in Tottenham, north London, public trust in the police seems uniformly strong.

Overall, 61 percent of those polled said they are confident that the police enforce the law fairly, uniformly and without prejudice.

By contrast, a total of 36 percent said they are either not at all (10 percent) or not very (26 percent) confident. There is some evidence that younger or poorer people are less likely to trust the police than older or better-off people, but in all categories a majority are satisfied.

However, the public are far less confident about the police’s ability to keep order. A majority said they think the police lack sufficient resources. The finding could add to opposition to proposed cuts in police numbers and funding.

While 41 percent said they are either very (6 percent) or quite (35 percent) confident the police have been given adequate resources, 56 percent said the opposite. People on lower incomes are the most likely to think the police are under-resourced.

There is also widespread agreement about the main causes of the riots and looting.

Asked to pick from a list of possible reasons, 45 percent blamed criminality on the part of the rioters. Older voters and richer ones are most likely to lay the blame on this.

Of other possible reasons, 28 percent cited lack of respect within families and communities. Only 8 percent said they think a lack of jobs for young people is the main reason. A further 5 percent said the police shooting of Mark Duggan — which led to the initial disorder in Tottenham — was the main cause, while 4 percent blamed the coalition government, 2 percent blamed the police and 2 percent blamed the state of the economy.

At the bottom of the list, only 1 percent blamed racial tension — a finding that suggests that the public views these riots differently to those of the 1980s.

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