In a wide-ranging survey conducted by Avvo to determine beliefs about personal and public safety in America, regional differences on the amount of trust that could reliably be placed in law enforcement colored responses and drove sizable variances of opinion.
The South and the Northeast regions of the country varied the most, on matters pertaining to public safety, attitudes around gun ownership, and the effectiveness of police in keeping people safe. The Northeast has the strongest faith in the role of law enforcement as a matter of public safety (36% called them effective), and—perhaps not coincidentally—contains the broadest support for gun control. In the South, meanwhile, only 26% of people believe police can effectively keep them safe.
Overall, Southerners support legal gun ownership at higher or average rates than the rest of the country, with 60% of Southerners believing that handguns should be legal, and 26% saying that openly carrying a gun in public should be allowed. Southerners are also more likely to believe they can successfully protect themselves with a firearm.
More Northeasterners, on the other hand, believe in requiring a waiting period for gun purchases (76%), tracking gun sales by the government (65%), and holding gun owners responsible for harm caused by their gun, but committed by others (44%) than in other areas of the country.
Throughout the country, a correlation seems to exist between the populace’s faith in police and their attitudes toward gun ownership. The Northeast, with its overall belief in the ability of authorities tasked with public safety, has the lowest gun ownership rates in the country: 19% of people in the Northeast own a gun, compared to 29% each in the Midwest and West and 30% in the South.
The West and Midwest fell in the middle on most questions, but also leaned toward not trusting the police with their safety; 38% of people living in the West region, for instance, believe they could protect themselves with a gun if in danger; meanwhile, only 32% say the police succeed at keeping them safe. The Midwest percentages were similar, with 36% expressing confidence in their own gun-driven safety while only 31% thought the police were up to the task.
One thing all respondents seem to agree on was that police, regardless of their overall effectiveness, were worthy of respect; in a list of professions including doctors, teachers, and other traditionally respected occupations, police consistently scored highly across all regions. The Midwest especially has high esteem for the profession, with a full 75% saying they respect individuals who chose to be police officers (other regions hovered around 70%).
Avvo conducts periodic studies to try and better understand the dynamics facing individuals engaging with attorneys and the legal system. These are findings from a poll conducted in late August and early September 2015. For more information, see more detail on each region below: