With the coronavirus crisis still going strong, and Donald Trump still acting as badly as ever, it's great to have some good news to celebrate. Behold...
This graphic comes from a story in today's New York Times. Net support is the difference between the percent of people supporting a policy minus the percent of people opposing the policy. Here's how the story starts out.
American public opinion can sometimes seem stubborn. Voters haven’t really changed their views on abortion in 50 years. Donald J. Trump’s approval rating among registered voters has fallen within a five-point range for just about every day of his presidency.
But the Black Lives Matter movement has been an exception from the start.
Public opinion on race and criminal justice issues has been steadily moving left since the first protests ignited over the fatal shootings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. And since the death of George Floyd in police custody on May 25, public opinion on race, criminal justice and the Black Lives Matter movement has leaped leftward.
Over the last two weeks, support for Black Lives Matter increased by nearly as much as it had over the previous two years, according to data from Civiqs, an online survey research firm. By a 28-point margin, Civiqs finds that a majority of American voters support the movement, up from a 17-point margin before the most recent wave of protests began.
And this trend is evident from more than the Civiqs surveys.
The survey is not the only one to suggest that recent protests enjoy broad public support. Weekly polling for the Democracy Fund’s U.C.L.A./Nationscape survey shows a significant increase in unfavorable views of the police, and an increase in the belief that African-Americans face a lot of discrimination.
Perhaps most significant, the Civiqs data is not alone in suggesting that an outright majority of Americans agree with the central arguments of Black Lives Matter.
A Monmouth University poll found that 76 percent of Americans consider racism and discrimination a “big problem,” up 26 points from 2015. The poll found that 57 percent of voters thought the anger behind the demonstrations was fully justified, while a further 21 percent called it somewhat justified.
Polls show that a majority of Americans believe that the police are more likely to use deadly force against African-Americans, and that there’s a lot of discrimination against black Americans in society. Back in 2013, when Black Lives Matter began, a majority of voters disagreed with all of these statements.
What this shows is that public opinion on a moral issue can be slow to change, but when it does, the change can be rapid.
Being 71, I remember when homosexuality was considered abhorrent, and same-sex marriage being legal didn't enter peoples' minds. But now Americans are generally accepting of LGBTQ people, with same-sex marriage being taken for granted. The New York Times story notes that inequality pushes a moral button in most people.
And whether on gay marriage or civil rights, American public opinion tends to drift toward the side advocating equal treatment. Public opinion doesn’t have nearly as clear a record of drifting toward the left on issues that don’t hinge on equal treatment under the law, like gun control and abortion.
Obviously, then, morality is a social construct, not a God-given commandment. And there's plenty of evidence that animals other than us have similar reactions to inequality.
But sadly, all too often us humans, who like to believe we possess an elevated sense of justice, don't act as morally as monkeys. To give a current example, President Trump is refusing to rename military bases that carry the names of Confederate generals, even though the Army Secretary and Defense Secretary were open to this.
So the president of the United States is fine with honoring generals who fought against the United States in an effort to keep slavery alive and well in the southern states.
It's understandable that Trump wasn't aware that these bases were named after Confederate generals. I sure wasn't. However, now that it is been pointed out to him, it definitely is a moral injustice which needs to be rectified. When Joe Biden becomes president, it will be.
The Army bases in question, all in Southern states, are Fort Bragg, N.C.; Forts Benning and Gordon in Georgia; Forts Pickett, A.P. Hill and Lee in Virginia; Fort Polk and Camp Beauregard in Louisiana; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Rucker, Ala.