Monmouth Poll

Monmouth Poll: Law and Order Seen As Major Problem

The 2020 Election is taking place during a challenging time in America. Currently, the United States is facing three coinciding existential crises:  a pandemic that has stretched to every corner of the globe, the worst economy since the Great Depression, and a reckoning of racial injustice that has led to a polarizing perception of the issue of law and order.  

 To gain a better understanding of American’s feelings regarding the topic of law and order, the Monmouth University Polling Institute conducted a nationwide survey of 867 adults in an effort to analyze differing sentiments across a variety of demographics.

The data concluded that 65 percent of Americans view law and order as a major problem, compared to the 25 percent that see it as a minor one, and the remaining 8 percent that feel there is no issue at all. 

According to the Polling Institute, neither candidate has a clear edge on the issue. The results show that 52 percent of Americans are confident in Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s ability to maintain law and order, and 48 percent of Americans are confident in President Donald Trump’s abilities.

Trump has made his commitment to law and order a primary component of his platform, painting the Blacks Lives Matter movement as a radical, anti-American, group of anarchists. 

 Director of Monmouth Polling, Patrick Murray, spoke to the electoral implications of the data, saying, “We’ve seen law and order rise as a concern among voters in this election. Not just because of the scenes of protests that have turned violent themselves, but also because of how the Trump campaign has used this as one of their messages.”

According to Trump, law and order is on the ballot as he has positioned himself as an unwavering ally to the police and accuses Biden for not being tough enough on crime. However, Biden has pushed back by pointing out that the current state of unrest is a direct result of the President’s leadership.  

Conversely, Democrats are calling for reforms to policing through a variety of ways, whether it is through racial sensitivity training or redirecting some of the police’s funding to social services, while Republicans argue that the actions of police are often justified due to the difficult situations’ officers are faced with. 

Associate Professor of Political Science Joseph Patten, Ph.D., weighed in, “[It’s a] similar time, take 1968 with street demonstrations, which benefited Richard Nixon who ran on a law and order platform, which Donald Trump is now playing in to. What is interesting is that our culture has changed since 1968, and you could make the case to say that it is working to the benefit of Biden because Trump is putting gasoline on the fire.”  

Murray agreed, “In key places, like Pennsylvania, more voters are saying they trust Biden over Trump on maintaining law and order. While these messages are playing well with Trump’s base, other voters seem to be saying the reason we are having law and order problems is in part due to underlying issues of racial injustice that need to be addressed.” 

It is evident that the issue is on voters’ minds. Erica DelGenio, a senior music industry student, shared her opinion on the candidates’ handlings, expressing her discontent with the Trump administration’s decisions and attitudes regarding the state of the justice system, and remarked “if Biden is elected, I would want to see the reforms in policing that he’s been campaigning on, because Trump has clearly ignored these calls for change.”  

Both candidates have made their pitch to voters on who will do a better job at keeping Americans safe.

Trump and Biden have denounced the violence that has resulted from the escalating tensions, however their opinions as to why this violence has occurred are vastly different. Whereas the Biden campaign has made an effort to acknowledge the systemic racism that pervades the United States criminal justice system, the Trump campaign has pushed back on these assertions, going so far as to deny the existence of such flaws.  

The Polling Institute’s numbers do not come without variations in respect to the multitude of demographics that were questioned.

Along partisan lines, the sense of urgency to maintain law and order differs greatly, with 77 percent of Republicans and right-leaning Independents, and 58 percent of Democrats viewing it as a major problem. 

Amongst racial lines, the law and order data is not nearly as divisive: 63 percent of White Americans, 61 percent of Black Americans as well, and 71percent of voters who are Hispanic, Asian, or other find it problematic  

Ultimately, this polling data is a reflection of American society today. The vast majority of citizens want law and order, and safe communities to live in, but there are clear divisions as to how to achieve that. 

“The possible consequences of the upcoming election will not just be of policy, but also of culture; voters this November will be faced with how to reckon with the long withstanding issues of race and justice that have brought us to this point, Murray said of the data.. “Americans want a leader who will address the issues with proper solutions and can rise to the occasion during this time of strife.”


IMAGE TAKEN from The Virginian-Pilot