Holding mayors accountable? Policing and mayoral approval in American cities

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Does police performance affect mayoral approval? Do citizens hold mayors accountable when they are dissatisfied with the police? Despite the established body of research on executive approval, little is known about how public opinion on a particular bureaucratic branch–police department in this case–affects mayoral approval ratings. On the one hand, the performance model of mayoral approval suggests that positive evaluation of police performance tends to boost mayoral approval. On the other, the race model challenges this straightforward relationship and suggests that the evaluation of the police and mayor can be racially polarized. Using the two most recent surveys on these questions conducted in New York City and Chicago, this paper tests the two models of executive approval and finds significant differences in executive approval processes in the two cities: while police performance is positively associated with mayoral approval in Chicago, the police-mayor evaluation is racially polarized in New York City. Such divergent responses may rest upon the enduring but distinct relationship that exists between the police department and the mayoral office in each city. The relationship appears to mediate public response to both policing and mayoral politics in the two cities. Findings from this analysis call for greater attention to the ecological context of policing and governance and its impact on public opinion.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Science Journal
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Western Social Science Association.


  • Policing
  • public opinion
  • race and ethnicity
  • urban politics


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