A huge majority of African-Americans disapprove of the jury verdict in the case of George Zimmerman, the Sanford, Florida neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted of murder charges a week ago in the self-defense shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
In a Washington Post-ABC poll released Monday, more than 1,000 Americans were asked whether they approved of the Zimmerman verdict. A whopping 81 per cent of blacks said no, while just nine per cent said yes.
The numbers were sharply reversed among whites, with 51 per cent favoring the jury’s decision and 27 per cent disapproving.
And shortly after Attorney General Eric Holder was assuring the NAACP at its convention last week that his Justice Department was still investigating the Zimmerman case, an 81 per cent majority of blacks told pollsters that they believe Zimmerman should face new civil rights charges in federal court. Just 13 per cent disagreed.
White respondents were opposed, but less strongly, by a 59-27 margin. Overall, ABC found that 39 per cent of Americans thought Zimmerman should be charged again. Forty-six percent disagreed.
ABC conducted its poll July 18-21. A separate poll of 1,000 Americans released Thursday and conducted July 15-16 by Rasmussen Reports found that in the days immediately following Zimmerman’s acquittal, just 21 per cent – barely half the number in ABC’s poll a few days later – thought federal civil-rights charges were warranted.
Asked if they agreed with the jury verdict in Sanford, Florida, less than half overall – 48 per cent – told the Rasmussen researchers they did. Thirty-four per cent disagreed.
In a separate Rasmussen poll conducted July 17-18, 48 per cent of Americans said they view Zimmerman unfavorably, compared to 32 per cent who had a favorable view of him.
In addition to a race-based opinion chasm, ABC’s statistics about the federal government’s potential prosecuting Zimmerman also differed broadly among various age groups.
‘In one striking division that reaches beyond race and ethnicity,’ ABC News reported, ’58 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds favor civil rights charges against Zimmerman, the only age group in which a majority holds this view. Among senior citizens, by contrast, just 25 percent agree.’
President Obama entered the fray on Friday after a week of silence and pressing questions from the White House press corps, with 17 minutes of deeply personal remarks about the death of Trayvon Martin.
‘When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son,’ Obama told reporters. ‘Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.’
‘When you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here. I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.’
That pain is clearly visible in the polling data.
ABC also found that 86 per cent of blacks surveyed don’t believe they receive equal treatment under the law; 60 percent of Hispanics share that belief.
Meanwhile, a 54-per-cent majority of whites said all groups of Americans received equal treatment under the law.
Obama’s belated entry into the post-trial news cycle is likely to resonate strongly with his political base, and it could further alienate GOP voters.
Just 17 per cent of self-identified Republicans, The Washington Post reported, think the Justice Department should file civil-rights charges over the death of Martin, a 17-year-old young man when hist life tragically ended. Among Democrats, 57 per cent say Zimmerman should face new federal charges.
Approval of the jury’s verdict was also split along party lines, with 65 per cent of Republicans and 22 per cent of Democrats in favor.
Obama weighed in Friday on the Zimmerman trial, saying that African-Americans view the result through a lens colored by past racism. There has been no poll released yet that includes data from after that highly personal 17-minute speech in the White House press briefing room.
The president is about to embark on an economics offensive in an effort to turn his numbers around, beginning with a speech Wednesday at Knox College in Illinois. That address will be a preview of key budget votes on the horizon in Congress.