Poll: Trayvon Martin case opinions divided along racial lines


Shirley Jackson (R), a teacher in Miami Dade school system, joins hundreds of other people in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood during a rally on April 4, 2012 in Miami, Florida. The rally was commemorating the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Trayvon Martin. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida.


Angel Valentin

Opinions on Trayvon Martin's unfolding murder case are divided along racial lines, according to a new Gallup/USA Today poll released on Thursday.

The sample survey of 3,006 adults across the United States found that 73 percent of blacks believe George Zimmerman would have been arrested if Trayvon was white; just 33 percent of whites agreed, USA Today reported.

52 percent of white Americans polled said race made no difference in the case, while 85 percent of blacks believe that race played at least some roll in the way the events have unfolded thus far.

Martin, a 17-year-old African American teen, was shot dead in February by Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, who told police he acted in self-defense and has yet to be arrested. The case has sparked rallies and outrage across the country. 

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"The shooting and that George Zimmerman is free is overt racism," Kenneth McIver, a black professor from South Carolina, told USA Today. "Trayvon was already labeled because of stereotypes…that they're up to no good, that they need to be watched."

Mark Hadden, a New Mexico-based teacher who is white, told USA Today he believes race was made a factor by people with political motives. 

"Some groups are waiting to be offended," said Hadden. "There are people clinging to prejudices, but I don't think it's as predominant and near as deep in society as people pretend."

Gallup compared the public reaction to Martin's death to the racial divide found over the murder trial of African American O.J. Simpson in 1995. In one Gallup poll conducted about Simpson, 78 percent of blacks said the jury that found Simpson not guilty of murder made the right decision, while only 42 percent of whites agreed. 

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The nation's opinions on Martin's shooting are also influenced by politics: a poll on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 56 percent of Republicans think there’s been “too much” media about Martin’s death, while just 25 percent of Democrats believe there is too much coverage of the story, Politico reported

"Whatever happens, however, it is clear that the case struck a highly responsive chord with blacks across the country, and that blacks' immediate judgments are that this represents still another example of a racially biased criminal justice system," Gallup wrote in their analysis of the Trayvon Martin poll. 

A grand jury is scheduled to review the evidence from the case on Tuesday, according to Gallup.  

See our complete Trayvon Martin case coverage.