Trends in youth opinions about police agencies in the United States, 2017–2021

Delvon T. Mattingly, Nancy L. Fleischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: As civil unrest about policing in the United States (US) continue, research on changing opinions about police agencies is needed, especially among younger populations. These opinions may be associated with distress and other health outcomes that come with public health implications. Methods: We aggregated and used yearly 2017 to 2021 data on 12th-grade youth living in the US from the Monitoring the Future cross-sectional study (n = 7132). We categorized opinions about police agency job performance into 1) very poor/poor (hereafter: poor), 2) fair/good/very good, and 3) no opinion. To examine trends in policy agency opinions over time, we conducted logistic regression between year and opinions, adjusted for age, sex, and race and ethnicity, and included a two-way interaction between year and race and ethnicity to determine differences across racial and ethnic groups by year. Results: From 2017 to 2020, the proportion of youth who believed police did a poor job remained constant. However, from 2020 to 2021, this proportion increased from 24.4% to 50.0%. Results from regression models showed that year 2021 (vs. 2017) was associated with nearly three times higher odds of perceiving police agencies do a poor job (OR: 2.90, 95% CI: 1.87–4.52). The interaction between year and race and ethnicity indicated that each racial and ethnic group in 2021 had higher odds of perceiving police agencies do a poor job compared to 2017, with associations strongest for non-Hispanic Black (OR: 6.46, 95% CI: 3.74–11.18) and non-Hispanic multiracial (OR: 7.38, 95% CI: 2.99–18.25) youth. Conclusions: Negative opinions about police agencies increased from 2017 to 2021, and differences were observed by race and ethnicity. Shifting youth views about police agencies in the US reflect the greater social context of the period, with potential implications for public health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100972
JournalSocial Sciences and Humanities Open
StatePublished - Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors


  • Health disparity
  • Police
  • Police agency
  • Police violence
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Decision Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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