Americans Remain Deeply Divided Over Ferguson Shooting, Poll Finds
By Ariel Edwards-Levy
Progressive America Rising via Huffington Post
Nov 25, 2014 – Americans are still deeply divided over the shooting of teenager Michael Brown this summer by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll taken before a grand jury decision not to indict Wilson was released Monday night.
While 28 percent said Wilson was at fault and should be punished, 23 percent said he was fully justified in the shooting of the unarmed 18-year-old, and another 30 percent said both Wilson and Brown made mistakes and it was "just a tragic accident." Another 20 percent were undecided.
Twenty-two percent had expected Wilson to be punished too harshly, while 26 percent believed he’d get off too lightly. Eighteen percent expected him to receive about the right punishment, and the remaining 34 percent were undecided.
A separate CNN poll, also conducted before the grand jury announcement, found that most wanted Wilson charged with a crime: 32 percent of Americans thought Wilson should be charged with murder, 25 percent that he should be charged with a lesser crime, and 31 percent that he should not be charged at all.
Opinions on the Ferguson incident have always been divided starkly along racial and political lines. In the latest round of HuffPost/YouGov polling, 64 percent of black Americans said Wilson was at fault, compared with just 22 percent of whites. White respondents were more than seven times as likely as blacks to say that the shooting was justified. A majority of black Americans said Wilson would be punished too leniently, with just 2 percent worrying his punishment would be too harsh.
Democrats were also three times more likely than Republicans to say Wilson was at fault, and to fear that he would be punished too leniently.
Perhaps the biggest divide, however, was on whether the shooting represented an isolated incident or part of a broader pattern in how black men are treated by the police. While Americans overall were split, 74 percent of black Americans and 57 percent of Democrats, compared with 31 percent of whites and 18 percent of Republicans, saw the shooting as part of a larger pattern.
Regardless of race or party, few Americans approved of local politicians’ response to the shooting or its aftermath. Just 17 percent, including 17 percent of whites and 13 percent of blacks, said Missouri politicians’ response had been adequate. The vast majority also expected some level of unrest, with 73 percent saying they believed there would be violent protests if an indictment were not returned.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Nov. 14-17 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.