HARTFORD – The ACLU of Connecticut released new, unprecedented public opinion polling today that shows strong support among voters in Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford for reallocating money from policing to instead support public education, health, and other valued public services. The research appears to be the first polling regarding policing in Connecticut in which a majority of respondents were voters of color.
The research, conducted by Benenson Strategy Group from September 18 to October 5, 2020, included telephone and online interviews with 545 registered Connecticut voters in Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven. Thirty-five percent of participants identified as white, 30 percent as African American, 30 percent as Latino, two percent as Native American, and one percent each as Asian or other. Fifty-two percent of respondents said that they or someone they personally knew had been harassed or harmed by police.
Respondents were asked about their views on proposals to move money from policing budgets into other public services, using non-police responses to issues related to health concerns like addiction or mental health crises, the size of police budgets generally, and about police accountability.
Key findings include:
- 75 percent of voters across the three cities agree, 49 percent strongly, that spending on police and law enforcement often makes up very large portions of local government budgets, and that communities should redirect some of this funding to social services instead of expecting police to act as mental health experts and social workers.
- 74 percent of voters across the three cities support, and 48 percent strongly support, a ending police presence in K-12 schools and instead funneling that money into school counselors, school social workers, nurses, special education teachers and programming to keep kids in positive environments.
- Black voters across the three cities are even more supportive of ending the police presence in k-12 schools and instead investing that money into school supports (78 percent support and the majority, 57 percent, strongly support), and of redirecting some of the spending on policing and law enforcement to social services (84 percent agree and a strong majority, 60 percent, strongly agree).
- When asked about specific proposals to reallocate money from their city police budgets to instead support other public services, large majorities of voters in all three cities responded favorably.
- In Bridgeport, 77 percent of voters support, and the majority (56 percent) strongly support, divesting $50 million from Bridgeport's $102 million-plus police budget, which would still place its police budget higher than New Haven or Hartford's, and reinvesting those funds in public education and community-based violence prevention programs for youth, infrastructure improvements for the city, and job creation programs for Bridgeport residents.
- In Hartford, 79 percent of voters support, 45 percent strongly, divesting $22 million from Hartford's $44 million-plus police budget and re-investing it in mental healthcare, addiction services, education, housing, and a crisis intervention program that protects the community by responding to emergencies with trained counselors, social workers, and health workers to deal with issues like homelessness, mental health and drug addiction instead of having police handle these concerns.
- In New Haven, 63 percent of voters support divesting $33 million from New Haven's $43 million-plus police budget and re-investing those funds in public education and community-based violence prevention programs for youth.
Voters reject using policing to respond to health-based community needs. Eighty percent of voters across the three cities support, 58 percent strongly, creating a new department of community well-being and safety, separate from the police department, that responds to emergencies with trained counselors, social workers, and health workers to deal with issues like homelessness, mental health and drug addiction instead of having police handle these concerns.
The majority of voters across the three cities also indicated that they feel their community is safe. Sixty-nine percent of Bridgeport respondents, 84 percent of Hartford respondents, and 87 percent of New Haven respondents indicated they feel their community is very or somewhat safe.
Melvin Medina, ACLU of Connecticut public policy and advocacy director, said, “When thousands of people mobilized across Connecticut this summer to call for a world that values in Black lives, it represented a decades-long movement. As this polling makes clear, this summer’s calls for cities and towns to invest in people instead of policing were not a flash in the pan but reflected a deeply held desire that people still hold today. Voters in Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven, three majority Black and Latinx cities, have sent a clear message that they believe in investing in their children, housing, jobs, health, and safety, and in moving money out of policing to support those things. Black voters in particular have made it clear that they want the government spending less on policing and spending more on their lives. Reallocating money from police allows cities to invest more wisely in mental health, substance abuse treatment, housing, employment, and other programs that make our communities safe. Moving money from policing will help ensure Black and Latino communities finally have the resources and well-funded support services that white areas in Connecticut have always had. People in Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven know what they need to secure their and their children’s futures, and that entails spending less on policing in order to spend more on people. Mayors and city councilmembers need to start listening.”