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Policing the Rainbow

Policemen walk around a police car designed with rainbow decals on a New York City street during a pride parade.
The nation’s first comprehensive study of LGBTQ people’s experiences with and attitudes toward law enforcement
  • Client
    National Institute of Justice
  • Dates
    2022 - 2024


There is a lack of comprehensive, actionable data on LGBTQ-police relations.

The same forces that conspire to foment negative attitudes and perceptions of police and reluctance to engage with law enforcement in other disadvantaged communities appear to be at work within the LGBTQ community. For instance, LGBTQ people are victimized at higher rates than non-LGBTQ people, have higher rates of contact with law enforcement than non-LGBTQ people, and are incarcerated at approximately three times the rate of the general population. While there is a growing body of first-person accounts, advocacy reports and proclamations, and political statements that address these phenomena, there has been little systematic social science research into the interaction between LGBTQ people and law enforcement and the attitudes and beliefs that inform those interactions.


NORC is conducting a groundbreaking study of LGBTQ engagement with law enforcement.

Funded by the National Institute of Justice, NORC, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, designed a mixed-methods study to understand the LGBTQ community’s experience with, perceptions of, and attitudes toward police and law enforcement. In phase one, the research team drew on NORC’s AmeriSpeak panel to field the first ever nationally representative probability-based survey of LGBTQ adults’ engagement with and attitudes toward law enforcement. Phase two consisted of in-depth interviews with a subset of survey respondents to further unpack and understand the survey results and to provide a roadmap for improving relations between the LGBTQ community and police.


This study will provide insights to help law enforcement better serve the LGBTQ community.

The ultimate goal of the study is to offer actionable insight into how police can more safely and effectively interact with the LGBTQ community. By identifying what is causing particular perceptions of and attitudes toward law enforcement, this research will help law enforcement administrators, practitioners, and policymakers understand how to better serve this population. Moreover, it will shed light on whether policing strategies aimed at improving relations with the LGBTQ community are working effectively. A major goal of this research is to identify strategies for developing more effective community policing strategies for the LGBTQ community that are informed by high-quality empirical research and input from the LGBTQ community itself.

Project Leads

Data & Findings

Explore NORC Research Science Projects

Analyzing Parent Narratives to Create Parent Gauge™

Helping Head Start build a tool to assess parent, family, and community engagement


National Head Start Association, Ford Foundation, Rainin Foundation, Region V Head Start Association

America in One Room

A “deliberative polling” experiment to bridge American partisanship


Stanford University