In a unique survey of 437 residents of Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District, majorities of Republicans and Democrats agreed on all but two of nine different police reform measures now under consideration in Congress. Majorities of Democrats and independents favored every proposal, while majorities of Republicans favored seven of the nine proposals and judged one of the others to be at least ”tolerable.”
The results were revealed at a special Zoom meeting of a “Reader Advisory Panel” attended by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and organized by the area’s hometown papers, the Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer, who were joined by local Black and Latino community leaders.
The survey, conducted by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, showed that overwhelming majorities of Republicans and Democrats favored requiring officers to wear body cameras and intervene in cases when another officer is using excessive force, as well as the creation of a national registry of police misconduct.
Large majorities–including clear majorities of Republicans–favored prohibiting chokeholds, mandating implicit racial bias training, and requiring independent prosecutors for cases involving police use of deadly force.
The survey and event are part of a larger Citizen Panel Initiative sponsored by the nonpartisan organizations Common Ground Solutions and Voice of the People. The Initiative seeks to promote civil dialogue, identify common ground on key issues and help members of Congress better connect with their constituents. The Initiative does not take positions on policies or candidates but seeks to give citizens a more effective voice in the policymaking process.
“In standard town hall meetings, members of Congress put forward their views and citizens respond,” said PPC Director Steven Kull. “In this format, the views of a representative sample of citizens are first put forward, then the member responds and there is a discussion.”
“The survey shows what we see across the country: that more people agree across party lines than you might think,” said Jillian Youngblood, Executive Director of Common Ground Solutions.“Citizen Panel Forums help Members of Congress listen carefully to people in their districts and genuinely represent them in Washington.”
Between July 24-August 9, 437 Pennsylvania residents from the 1st District went through an online policymaking simulation that gives users information on an issue and seeks to put them in the shoes of a policymaker. Respondents are provided a briefing, presented with pro and con arguments for various proposals, and then asked to weigh in with their specific recommendations. The content was reviewed in advance by experts on all sides to assure accuracy and balance.
The proposals were drawn from the two most prominent pieces of police reform legislation in Congress – the House’s George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the Senate’s JUSTICE Act.
Three of the proposals received overwhelming bipartisan majority support.
- Requiring all officers to wear body cameras, and to turn them on when they are on a call or interacting with a suspect, was the most popular reform with an overwhelming 85% favoring it, including 78% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats.
- Making it a duty for officers to intervene in cases where another officer is using excessive force was favored by 83% overall (Republicans 77%, Democrats 89%).
- Creating a national registry of police misconduct available to all police departments and the public was favored by a substantial majority of 79% (Republicans 73%, Democrats 87%).
Four received large majority support, including a clear majority of Republicans.
- Prohibiting chokeholds and other neck restraints was favored by 75% (Republicans 58%, Democrats 88%).
- Requiring officers to receive training to address implicit racial bias, was favored by 74% (Republicans 64%, Democrats 81%).
- Offer federal funding to states that require us of independent prosecutors in all cases involving police use of deadly force was favored by 69% (Republicans 61%, Democrats 75%).
One proposal had large majority support overall. While Republicans were divided, in a separate question, a majority of Republicans said they found the proposals at least “tolerable.”
- Amending qualified immunity so that it is more possible to hold officers liable in civil cases for their use of excessive force – was favored by 63% overall, including 75% of Democrats. Only half of Republicans were in favor, but 60% found the proposal at least tolerable.
One proposal had large majority support overall, but Republicans lean oppose.
- of independents, but only 47% of Republicans. On a separate question, half of Republicans found the proposal unacceptable, while the other half found it at least “tolerable.”
The views expressed in Pennsylvania’s 1st District were quite similar to those in the same nationwide survey conducted by the Program for Public Consultation of more than 3,200 voters provided by Nielsen Scarborough.
Questionnaire with PA-1 and U.S. National Frequencies:
Survey Slides with PA-1 and U.S. National Results:
Members of the public can go through the same policymaking simulation at: