Apr 6, 2012 8 Comments ›› Pat Dollard
“51% Of Blacks Say Zimmerman “Definitely Guilty”, Only 11% Of Non-Blacks Agree. U.S. public opinion about the Trayvon Martin case in Florida reflects the same type of racial divide found in 1995.”
by Frank Newport
Black Americans’ views differ dramatically from those of nonblacks regarding the circumstances involved in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26. Blacks are paying much closer attention to the news of the incident; overwhelmingly believe that George Zimmerman, the individual who shot Martin, is guilty of a crime; believe that racial bias was a major factor in the events leading up to the shooting; and believe that Zimmerman would already have been arrested had the victim been white, not black.
These results are from an April 2-4 USA Today/Gallup poll of 3,006 Americans, including 242 blacks, conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking.
Blacks More Sure That Zimmerman Is Guilty, Racial Bias a Factor
Blacks are much more likely than nonblacks to have an opinion about Zimmerman’s guilt. Overall, 72% of blacks say Zimmerman is definitely or probably guilty of a crime; 1% say he is not. Nonblacks also say Zimmerman is guilty, by 32% to 7%, but well over half of nonblacks say Zimmerman’s guilt is unclear from the available information.
Blacks are more certain about their opinions than are nonblacks. Blacks who say Zimmerman is guilty of a crime are significantly more likely to say he is definitely guilty than probably guilty, while nonblacks tilt more toward the “probably guilty” choice.
Additionally, 72% of blacks say racial bias was a major factor in the events that led up to the shooting death of Martin, with another 13% saying it was a minor factor. Nonblacks, on the other hand, are significantly less certain, with 31% saying racial bias was a major factor, 26% saying it was a minor factor, and 25% saying it was not a factor at all.
Blacks Say Zimmerman Would Have Been Arrested if Victim Had Been White
A final question included in the poll asked if Zimmerman would have been arrested under the same circumstances if the person he shot was white.
Consistent with the widespread view among blacks that racial bias was a factor in the events surrounding the shooting, blacks overwhelmingly (73%) say Zimmerman would have been arrested had the victim been white. Nonblacks, on the other hand, tilt toward the view that race did not make a difference in the Zimmerman situation (49%), with 35% saying he would have arrested had the victim been white.
U.S. public opinion about the Trayvon Martin case in Florida reflects the same type of racial divide found in 1995 surveys asking about the murder trial of O.J. Simpson in Los Angeles.