African Americans have a mostly shared and sharply negative reaction to the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the not-guilty verdict in the resulting trial, while whites are far more divided, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
At least eight in 10 African Americans say the shooting of the Florida teenager was unjustified, recoil at the verdict in the trial and want the shooter, George Zimmerman, tried in federal court for violating Martin's civil rights.
On the Martin shooting in particular, the racial gaps are extremely wide.
Among African Americans, 87 percent say the shooting was unjustified; among whites, just 33 percent say so. A slim majority of whites (51 percent) approve of the not-guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trial, while African Americans overwhelmingly and strongly disapprove. Some 86 percent of blacks disagree with the verdict — almost all of them disapproving "strongly."
There is also a partisan tinge to the public views. Among whites, 70 percent of Republicans but only 30 percent of Democrats say they approve of the verdict.
Some of the reaction to the trial — among both blacks and whites — stems from wildly different views of the role of race in the criminal justice system more broadly. Fully 86 percent of African Americans say blacks and other minorities do not get equal treatment under the law; the number of whites saying so is less than half as large, 41 percent. A majority of whites, 54 percent, say there is equal treatment for minority groups.
About eight in 10 African Americans (81 percent) say the federal government should charge Zimmerman in federal court with civil rights violations. Just 27 percent of whites agree, while 59 percent say the government should not bring such charges.
Some 60 percent of Hispanics say blacks and other minorities do not receive equal treatment with whites in the criminal justice system, and by a two-to-one ratio, they disapprove of the verdict in the Zimmerman trial.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted July 18 to 21 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; it is 4.5 points for the sample of white respondents and 11 points among African Americans and Hispanics.
Cohen is Director of Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media. Capital Insight pollsters Scott Clement and Kimberly N. Hines contributed to this report.