In the early weeks after protests that broke out over the police killing of George Floyd, polling showed broad and deep support for them. As the summer wore on with sporadic looting and acts of vandalism, Americans became much more divided, as was evident on Election Day, the New York Times reports. About nine of 10 voters said the protests over police violence were a factor in their voting, with more than three-fourths calling it a major factor, according to preliminary data from A.P. VoteCast, a voter survey for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago. About a fifth of voters said the protests were the single most important factor in their decision. The survey interviewed over 140,000 respondents by phone and online.
These voters were split on who should be in the White House. Among those who cited the protests as a factor, 53 percent voted for Joe Biden, and 46 percent for President Donald Trump. Interviews with voters showed strong differences that often ran along racial lines. Many Blacks viewed the protests through the lens of police violence threatening their lives, while many conservative white voters saw unrest encroaching on their communities. In the early days of the protests, liberal activists called to “defund the police,” arguing that reducing police department budgets would allow for more investments into communities struggling with poverty. The electoral impact of that message is now being debated by Democrats. In a conference call among House Democrats on Thursday, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), who narrowly won re-election, angrily blamed liberals for embracing the “defund the police” movement. President-elect Biden opposes police defunding. Seventy percent of voters polled said racism in policing was a very serious or somewhat serious problem. Of those voters, three in 10 favored Donald Trump.