Michael Brown and Eric Garner: The Police, Use of Force and Race

Jennifer De Pinto et al., CBS News, December 10, 2014

A new CBS News poll finds stark racial differences on views of the police and the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. While four in five whites say their local police make them feel mostly safe, that drops to 52 percent among blacks. Forty-three percent of African Americans say the local police make them feel mostly anxious.

Blacks and whites also hold different views on the police use of deadly force. Eighty-four percent of blacks say police are most likely to use deadly force against blacks, while most whites say race is not a factor.

More than four in five blacks are disappointed or angry about the lack of an indictment in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Blacks are much more likely than whites to think race played a major role in the deaths of both men.

Two-thirds of blacks think the use of deadly force in both cases was not justified, but whites see the two cases differently. Far more whites think the use of deadly force was justified in the Brown case (43 percent) than in the Garner case (14 percent).

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Most Americans have heard or read a lot about a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, but they are divided on how they feel about it. While 45 percent of Americans say they are either pleased (19 percent) or satisfied with the decision (26 percent), nearly as many–41 percent–say they are either disappointed (28 percent) or angry (13 percent).

Blacks and whites see things differently. Fifty-one percent of whites are at least satisfied with the decision, while 82 percent of blacks say they are disappointed (55 percent) or angry (27 percent).

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Americans divide in their assessments of race relations in the U.S: 45 percent think they are generally good, but 43 percent think they are generally bad. Views are similar to August–when protests in Ferguson first began after Michael Brown’s death–but the percentage who says race relations are good has dropped 10 points since the spring and is now the lowest in CBS News Polls since 1997.

Blacks are more critical than whites. Fifty-four percent of blacks think race relations are bad, while whites are more divided.

Only one in five Americans thinks race relations are improving in the U.S. Most either think they are getting worse (36 percent) or staying about the same (40 percent).

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