Is the justice system racially biased? Depends on who you ask

A bronze statue titled “Justice Delayed, Justice Denied” depicting a figure of Justice is seen on the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Minorities and young people are more likely to view the justice system as unfair, new ABA poll finds
  • A majority of Americans would also like election day to be a federal holiday

(Reuters) – Opinions on the fairness of the U.S. justice system vary widely according to age and race, according to a recent poll by the American Bar Association.

More than half of Americans polled by the ABA in March (52%)either agreed or strongly agreed that the justice system has built-in racial biases. But that figure ticked down to 48% among white respondents and rocketed to 75% among Black respondents. Among Hispanics, 54% agreed or strongly agreed.

Meanwhile, 63% of respondents aged 18-34 agreed or strongly agreed that racial bias is built into the justice system’s rules, procedures and practices. Just 40% of respondents 65 or older agreed or strongly agreed with that.

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The results were similar when the ABA asked whether all individuals are treated equally in the eyes of the law. Only 46% of those aged 18-34 agreed or strongly agreed with that statement, compared to 65% of respondents 65 and over. And 59% of white respondents agreed or strongly agreed, compared to 29% of Black respondents. Hispanics agreed or strongly agreed at the highest rate, 61%.

Perceptions about the fairness of the justice system are one of the key findings of the ABA’s annual 2022 Survey of Civic Literacy, a nationally representative survey of 1,000 Americans on issues surrounding the law and government.

“People in our country need to be proficient in civic knowledge and must know their rights and responsibilities,” ABA President Reginald Turner said last week when the survey was released.

The ABA also polled Americans’ about their feelings about voting. Among respondents, 38% said their state has enacted laws since 2020 to make it easier to vote, while 21% said their state has made voting more difficult. And 66% said they would support or strongly support a federal holiday on election days.

Respondents were also asked a series of multiple-choice questions about the Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court. The majority, 87%, correctly answered that the president is the commander in chief of the military under the Constitution. Only 57% correctly identified John Roberts as the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

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