Study Shows Large Disparity Between Public Belief and Actual Fact in Relation to Race and Policing Statistics

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A recent Skeptic Research Center study released on February 20, 2021 details the average citizens beliefs regarding specific questions relating to policing and race.  The study has a sample size of 980 adults from across the country, with the average age and standard deviation being 47.16 and 17.24 respectively.  Each individual was asked to rank their own political beliefs on a scale of very liberal, liberal, moderate, conservative, and very conservative.  The two questions asked to each individual are listed below with corresponding statistics:

Question 1: If you had to guess, how many unarmed Black men were killed by police in 2019?  Option categories ranged from “about 10” to “more than 10,000.”

The true number is between 13 and 27

The data suggests that the further the individual identifies to the left, the farther the individuals estimated answer to the question is from the correct range.  Between self identified “liberal” and “very liberal” individuals, 46.19% belief the average number of unarmed black men killed by police in 2019 was over 1,000, and 17.01% of that same group estimated that number to be 10,000 or more.  For “conservative” and “very conservative” the individual was, the pattern is slightly different.  Going from a moderate to a conservative stance tends to get closer to the actual number, however going from “conservative” to “very conservative” tends to trend farther from the actual number (in an overestimate of the actual number).  With that being said, 33.32% of conservatives thought that the answer was 1,000 or more, and 5.76% thought that the number was 10,000 or more. 

Question 2: If you had to guess, in 2019 what percentage (%) of people killed by police were Black?  Respondents could choose any number from 0 to 100.

The true percentage ranges from 23.4 to 26.7

Between “liberal” and “very liberal” individuals, the average estimate was 33.23 percentage points above the true value, and “conservative” and “very conservative” individuals estimated 16.1 percentage points over the true number.  The same trends from the previous question apply:  The farther to the left an individual identifies as, the farther their estimate ranges from the true value.  As and individual moves from “moderate” to “conservative,” the individual on average moves closer the the true value, while moving from “conservative” to “very conservative” would on average move the individual farther away from the true value.