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Some 25 years after Los Angeles smoldered during massive civil unrest, sparked by a widespread belief that the city’s police were biased and unaccountable, Angelenos trust the LAPD more than any other local institution, according to a survey conducted by Loyola Marymount University researchers. But a troubling racial gap remains, as white and Asian American residents are far more likely to view the Los Angeles Police Department through a positive lens, while African Americans in Los Angeles perceive the police in negative terms.

The findings represent a ray of hope for the Los Angeles Police Department, a force often troubled in the past by poor relationships with the communities it patrols. The 1992 riots and unrest broke out after four officers captured on video beating African American suspect Rodney King were acquitted of brutality charges in a Simi Valley courtroom. “While the LAPD has had its share of serious issues, the one constant over the last two decades has been efforts by its leadership to mend fences and build relationships with the people of Los Angeles, especially minority communities,” said Fernando Guerra, professor of political science and Chicana/o Studies and director of the center. “Our survey shows the effort has not been wasted, but that more work must still be done.”

The results come from a survey conducted by the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at LMU. The center has surveyed residents every five years since the riots, creating a longitudinal portrait of how the city and region’s attitudes have changed. The full report will be released on Wednesday. This year, respondents were asked if several institutions could be trusted “to do what is right.” Among the choices were the federal government, state government, city government, LAPD, Department of Water and Power, the news media, Los Angeles Unified School District, labor unions, religious institutions, or their neighbors. Among official groups, the LAPD rated highest, with 58 percent saying the police would do the right thing “just about always” or “most of the time.” The only category ranked higher was the amorphous “your neighbors.”

The major gap in perception occurs between races. Among white respondents, 69 percent said the LAPD would do the right thing, and 68 percent of Asian Americans agreed. But for African Americans surveyed, just 39 percent agreed. Latinos were in the middle, at 54 percent. “In one sense, the data tell us something we already knew in Los Angeles: that even after years of outreach and building bridges, different ethnic groups have widely varying relationships with the police,” said Brianne Gilbert, associate director of the center.

Also troubling, in an era of fake news and rampant presidential falsehoods, the news industry was the least trusted by Angelenos. Nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of respondents said “the media” does what is right “none of the time.”

The survey was conducted by telephone and online in January and February, among 1,200 Los Angeles city residents. The margin of error is +/- 3.0 percent.

Publication Date


Recommended Citation for Report

Trust: 2017 Los Angeles Public Opinion Survey Report. Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California.

Residents' Trust of Institutions: 2017 Los Angeles Public Opinion Survey Report