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    Blacks have less faith in city police and courts, poll shows

    Sixty-four percent of the voters surveyed said they have confidence in the state’s criminal justice system. Above, Suffolk Superior Court in downtown Boston.
    Barry Chin/Globe Staff/File
    Sixty-four percent of the voters surveyed said they have confidence in the state’s criminal justice system. Above, Suffolk Superior Court in downtown Boston.

    A majority of Boston voters expressed confidence in the criminal justice system in Massachusetts, but a lower percentage of blacks than whites, Asian-Americans, and Latinos said they had faith in the city’s police and the courts, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

    Forty-four percent of black registered voters surveyed said they were somewhat confident in the system, but 41 percent said they think Boston police treat blacks and Latinos somewhat or very fairly, and 27 percent said they think the courts treat those two groups fairly.

    The findings are included in a Hyams Foundation study that detailed the nuances in Boston’s perceptions of racism and race relations in the city’s black, white, Latino, and Asian-American communities.


    “We talk about the bodycam and all types of policing but . . . after looking at this report, we really need to look at what is happening in the court system and what African-Americans are experiencing,’’ said Jocelyn V. Sargent, executive director of the foundation, which works on racial, social, and economic justice issues in low-income communities.

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    The report, coming amid conversations on race relations across the city and a major criminal justice bill at the State House, also probed communities of color on economic opportunity, public education, race relations, and racism.

    “What the survey lets us do is look at the opinions and experiences of our city’s residents in a detailed and more nuanced view than we’ve not been able to do before,’’ said Steve Koczela, president of MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the study.

    Pollsters contacted 306 white, 269 black, 246 Latino, and 92 Asian-Americans registered voters online or by phone between Nov. 19 and Nov. 21.

    Koczela said researchers took a representative sampling of voters, but conducted additional interviews with black, Latino, and Asian respondents. The “oversamples” were then weighted to ensure the final results matched the overall city demographic data on registered voters.


    Sargent said the foundation commissioned the study to broaden its limited understanding of communities of color by asking blacks, Asian-Americans, and Latinos about issues that were troubling them and policies they value.

    The intent is to also better inform various businesses, governments, and philanthropic and academic institutions and serve as a guidepost to the foundation’s work in better understanding how racism and race relations are experienced, Sargent added.

    Overall, most of the people surveyed said Boston has made progress on race relations and racism, but there is still more work to do, officials said. Seventy-four percent said racism is a serious problem in Boston, the poll said. But opinions varied among the different racial groups on the gravity of the issue.

    Eighty-nine percent of blacks ranked the matter high, compared with 69 percent of Latinos and 68 percent of whites and Asian-Americans.

    A vast majority of blacks (66 percent), Latinos (55 percent), and Asian-American voters (63 percent) said they strongly agreed that it has “become harder” to live in Boston. But just 46 percent of whites felt the same, the study said. Younger voters noted they are feeling more economic strain.


    Latino and Asian voters were most optimistic about the idea of economic opportunity, the study said, while white voters were equally split on the issue. Just 39 percent of black voters said they saw an equal shot at success for all residents, the report said.

    Only 27 percent of the voters said they think the city’s public schools have improved over the past five years, and another 38 percent think they have stayed the same. There is optimism for the schools, the poll said.

    “Voters do not see the public schools in crisis, but they certainly see room for improvement,’’ the study said. “And right now, few people see that improvement happening.”

    On another critical issue, 64 percent of the voters said they have confidence in the state’s criminal justice system, and 52 percent said they think police treat blacks and Latinos fairly.

    Among the racial groups, the poll found that 72 percent of the whites, 66 percent of the Asian-Americans, and 66 percent of the Latinos polled said they have faith in the criminal justice system.

    Fifty-nine percent of the Latinos; 56 percent of the whites; and 48 percent of the Asian-Americans polled said they felt Boston police treat blacks and Latinos somewhat or very fairly.

    Fifty-two percent of the whites, 51 percent of the Latinos, and 49 percent of the Asian-Americans said they think the courts in Boston treat blacks and Latinos somewhat or very fairly.

    On the question of whether they felt very safe in their own neighborhoods, 47 percent of whites said yes; Latinos, 31 percent; and Asian-Americans, 31 percent. Only 16 percent of blacks said they felt very safe in their neighborhood.

    Survey officials said the report did not include noncitizens, who make up much of the city’s recent population boom; people unable to vote; and other groups too small to sample, including Native Americans.

    The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points , the report said.

    Meghan E. Irons can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.