Religion, Race, and Perceptions of Police Harassment

police harassment

Authors: Jauhara Ferguson, Christopher P. Scheitle, and Elaine Howard Ecklund

police harassmentResearch examining how race and ethnicity shape perceptions of the police is well-established. Yet there is little research examining how the combination of race and religion--identities which are often linked--could impact experiences with police.

Boniuk Institute researchers studied the influence of race and religion on U.S. adults’ reported experiences with police harassment due to their religion and found that, independent of race and ethnicity, Muslim adults are significantly more likely to report police harassment due to their religion than are individuals identifying as Christian. Race and ethnicity moderate this effect, with Muslim adults identifying as Black or as Middle Eastern-Arab-North African (MENA) significantly more likely than White Muslim adults to report religion-based police harassment.

Researchers found that, independent of religion, adults identifying as Black or as MENA are significantly more likely than white individuals to report religion-based police harassment, a finding that is explained by these individuals’ greater reports of race-based police harassment. That is, exposure to police harassment based on race is more likely to make an individual perceive harassment based on their religion.

These findings highlight the intersectional nature of individuals’ social locations more broadly and the importance of addressing these multiple locations if we are to address the social problem of police harassment and victimization.

Read this study in full

This research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (Award #1754015 and #1753972, Christopher P. Scheitle and Elaine Howard Ecklund, Principal Investigators).