How the Trayvon Martin case reveals our two political Americas

July 22, 2013

In the wake of President Obama's comments about race and the Trayvon Martin case on Friday, new polling conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News paints a picture of a deeply divided America on the verdict --  a split along both racial and party lines.


President Obama addressed the Trayvon Martin case on Friday. AP photo.

The racial split -- 87 percent of African Americans believe George Zimmerman's shooting was not justified while just 32 percent of whites say the same -- will draw most of the headlines -- and rightly so.

But, even more intriguing to us is how predictive party affiliation is in determining how people felt about the Zimmerman case. Nearly six in ten (59 percent) Democrats say the shooting was unjustified while just one in five (22 percent) Republicans say the same.

Those partisan breakdowns extend across virtually every question asked in the poll.

Here's the question of whether or not people approve of the jury's decision as seen through the lens of political parties:

And here's the party splits on the broader question of whether African Americans and other minorities receive "equal treatment as whites" in the criminal justice system:

Some of these partisan numbers are explained by simple demographics. African Americans identify as overwhelmingly Democratic, so when nine out of ten black people say they feel as though the Martin shooting was unjustified, it moves the party number on the question as well. Ditto Hispanics, who, by a two-to-one margin, said the shooting of Martin was unjustified.

But, beyond the demographics, what the Post-ABC numbers on the Zimmerman trial make clear is that Republicans and Democrats really are living in two different worlds. The day-to-day view that Republicans take on the world is fundamentally different than the one that Democrats do. What does that mean for our political process and the chances at compromise on major legislation? Nothing good.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Chris Cillizza | July 22, 2013