OTTAWA — Canadians have a largely favourable view of police in their communities but Indigenous people, members of visible minority groups and younger Canadians are more likely to have had bad experiences and to feel threatened in the presence of police, a new poll suggests.
Seventy-seven per cent of Caucasian respondents to the Angus Reid Institute survey said they had a favourable or very favourable view of their local police.
But that dropped to 72 per cent for Indigenous respondents and 67 per cent for those who identified themselves as members of a visible minority.
The contrasts among different age groups was even more stark, with just 51 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds expressing a favourable view — a percentage that rose through each successive age group to a high of 86 per cent among those 65 or older.
Younger Canadians were also far more likely than older Canadians to report having had at least one direct interaction with police over the past five years, which could include anything from a traffic stop or reporting a disturbance to being arrested.
Seventy-four per cent of those aged 18 to 34 reported having had at least one direct interaction with police, compared to 54 per cent for those 55 or older.
Among those who did have direct interactions with police, 80 per cent said it was a mainly or entirely positive experience. Seventeen per cent said it was more negative than positive and just four per cent said it was entirely negative.
But Indigenous people and members of visible minorities were more likely than Caucasians to report entirely or mainly negative experiences — 29 per cent, 25 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.
Younger Canadians, particular young Indigenous people or members of a visible minority, were also more likely to say they feel threatened in the presence of a police officer.
Overall, just 17 per cent of respondents said they feel less secure when they see a police officer, compared to 45 per cent who feel more secure and 38 per cent who reported no real feeling either way.
But 38 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds said they feel less secure — six points higher than those who said they feel more secure. Feelings of security increased through each successive age group to a high of 57 per cent among those 65 and older.
For Indigenous youth, 35 per cent said they feel less secure, the same as said they feel more secure. And 39 per cent of visible minority youth said they feel less secure, four points higher than those who said they feel more secure.
By comparison, 30 per cent of Caucasian youth said they feel less secure in the presence of a police officer, whereas 33 per cent said they feel more secure.
The online poll of 5,005 adult Canadians was conducted Aug. 26 to Sept. 1; it cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 9, 2020.