Americans Split on Zimmerman Verdict, but Not on Excessive Trial Coverage

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – July 23, 2013 – While July 13’s not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman may have brought his trial to a close, the court of public opinion is far from done with the subject. The days since have seen both scathing critiques and staunch support for the jury’s decision, and the Harris Poll finds the American public to be equally divided on the subject – though Americans do overwhelmingly agree that the trial was excessively covered.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,034 U.S. adults surveyed online between July 16 and 18, 2013 by Harris Interactive.

    Americans at odds on verdict overall, but partialities emerge along age and gender lines

    Almost half (46%) of Americans indicate that they agree with the verdict and while almost the same number (45%) indicate that they disagree, with 10% not at all sure. Looking strictly at the most impassioned responses reveals an even tighter parity, with 27% each indicating that they strongly agree and strongly disagree.

    However, looking at specific segments reveals more consistent inclinations for or against the verdict, with minority respondents, younger Americans and women more likely to disagree with the verdict:

    • The vast majority of black respondents (89%) and the majority of Hispanic respondents (57%) disagree with the verdict, 76% of black respondents strongly so, while a majority of white respondents agree with the verdict (54%, with 36% disagreeing).
    • 18-34 year olds are more likely to disagree than agree with the verdict, by a 19-point margin (54% disagree, 35% agree), 35-44 year olds are split (45% disagree, 44% agree), and Americans 45 and older are more likely to agree with the verdict by a 12-point margin (45-54 year olds: 51% agree, 39% disagree; 55+ year olds: 52% agree, 40% disagree).
    • Feelings toward the verdict also shift by gender. Men are more likely to agree with the verdict by an 11-point margin (52% agree, 41% disagree), while women are more likely to disagree with the all-female jury’s decision by a 9-point margin (49% disagree, 40% agree).

    Those who consider themselves more knowledgeable on the trial are slightly more likely to stand in favor of its result, with those describing themselves as knowing a great deal about the trial of George Zimmerman more likely to agree with the verdict, by a 7-point margin (53% agree, 46% disagree).

    Trial coverage perceived as excessive, imbalanced

    While Americans may be at odds on the trial’s outcome, as a whole they show no such split when it comes to the trial’s coverage. An overwhelming majority (85%) agree – over half (54%) strongly so – that the trial received excessive news coverage, and roughly three-fourths (74%) agree to perceiving it as inappropriate that the trial has been more broadly covered than recent violence elsewhere in the country.

    Additionally, roughly six in ten disagree that, overall, the media has been balanced in their coverage of the events surrounding the case (62%) and that it is appropriate that the trial has received a similar amount of attention as recent allegations of widespread U.S. surveillance programs (59%).

    Americans are more divided when looking at public response to the verdict, but only until more impassioned opinions are examined. Overall, Americans are slightly more likely to agree (52%) than to disagree (48%) that the public response to the verdict has largely been responsible. However, when looking more specifically at strong opinions on the subject disagreement outpaces agreement at roughly a 3:1 ratio (41% strongly disagree, 14% strongly agree).

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    TABLE 1a

    AWARENESS OF INDIVIDUAL ASPECTS OF CASE

    We’d like to ask you about the recent case of George Zimmerman, who was charged with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. How would you describe your awareness of each of the following aspects of this case?

    Base: U.S. adults

    Know at least some details about it (NET)

    I know a great deal about it

    I know some details about it

    I am aware of it but don’t know any details

    I do not know anything about it

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The actual shooting which resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin

    79

    32

    47

    15

    6

    The trial of George Zimmerman

    79

    32

    47

    16

    5

    The trial’s verdict

    85

    50

    35

    10

    5

    Public response to the verdict

    84

    45

    39

    10

    6

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 1b

    KNOW A GREAT DEAL ABOUT INDIVIDUAL ASPECTS OF CASE – by Region, Age, Gender & Race/Ethnicity

    We’d like to ask you about the recent case of George Zimmerman, who was charged with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. How would you describe your awareness of each of the following aspects of this case?

    Summary of I know a great deal about it

    Base: U.S. adults

    Total

    Region

    Age

    Gender

    Race/Ethnicity

    NE

    MW

    South

    West

    18-34

    35-44

    45-54

    55+

    Male

    Female

    White

    Black

    Hispanic

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The actual shooting which resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin

    32

    29

    30

    39

    26

    32

    25

    36

    33

    35

    29

    30

    47

    39

    The trial of George Zimmerman

    32

    29

    32

    39

    24

    29

    26

    36

    35

    34

    30

    31

    43

    35

    The trial’s verdict

    50

    45

    51

    57

    44

    45

    37

    58

    56

    54

    47

    50

    58

    57

    Public response to the verdict

    45

    43

    43

    54

    37

    46

    34

    48

    48

    47

    43

    43

    60

    47

     

    TABLE 2a

    AGREE/DISAGREE WITH VERDICT – by Region, Age, Gender & Children <18 in HH

    You indicated that you have at least some level of awareness about the recent case. As you may or may not know, the jury found George Zimmerman not guilty on all charges in the shooting. How strongly do you agree or disagree with this ruling?

    Base: At least aware of any aspect of the case

    Total

    Region

    Age

    Gender

    Children <18 in HH

    NE

    MW

    South

    West

    18-34

    35-44

    45-54

    55+

    Male

    Female

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Agree (NET)

    46

    47

    50

    44

    43

    35

    44

    51

    52

    52

    40

    48

    45

    Strongly agree

    27

    27

    27

    28

    24

    17

    29

    28

    33

    33

    21

    26

    27

    Somewhat agree

    19

    19

    23

    16

    19

    18

    15

    23

    10

    18

    19

    21

    18

    Disagree (NET)

    45

    44

    41

    47

    46

    54

    45

    39

    40

    41

    49

    42

    46

    Somewhat disagree

    17

    20

    16

    13

    22

    23

    16

    13

    15

    16

    19

    18

    17

    Strongly disagree

    27

    23

    25

    34

    24

    30

    29

    26

    25

    25

    30

    24

    29

    Not at all sure

    10

    9

    9

    9

    11

    11

    11

    9

    8

    8

    11

    10

    9

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2b

    AGREE/DISAGREE WITH VERDICT – by Know a great deal about aspects of the case & Race/Ethnicity

    You indicated that you have at least some level of awareness about the recent case. As you may or may not know, the jury found George Zimmerman not guilty on all charges in the shooting. How strongly do you agree or disagree with this ruling?

    Base: At least aware of any aspect of the case

    Total

    Know a Great Deal About…

    Race/Ethnicity

    The Shooting

    The Trial

    The Verdict

    Public Response to the Verdict

    White

    Black

    Hispanic

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Agree (NET)

    46

    49

    53

    50

    48

    54

    7

    37

    Strongly agree

    27

    38

    40

    36

    33

    33

    2

    22

    Somewhat agree

    19

    12

    12

    15

    15

    21

    5

    15

    Disagree (NET)

    45

    48

    46

    46

    49

    36

    89

    57

    Somewhat disagree

    17

    8

    10

    13

    13

    17

    13

    19

    Strongly disagree

    27

    40

    36

    33

    36

    19

    76

    38

    Not at all sure

    10

    3

    2

    4

    3

    10

    4

    6

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 3a

    AGREEMENT WITH COVERAGE & RESPONSE COMMENTS

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. adults

    Strongly/ Somewhat agree (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    Strongly/ Somewhat disagree (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The trial received excessive news coverage.

    85

    54

    31

    15

    11

    4

    I think it is inappropriate that coverage of the trial has been more broadly covered than recent violence elsewhere in the country.

    74

    37

    37

    26

    19

    8

    The public response to the verdict has largely been responsible.

    52

    14

    38

    48

    27

    41

    I think it is appropriate that the trial has received a similar amount of attention as recent allegations of widespread U.S. surveillance programs.

    41

    11

    30

    59

    34

    25

    Overall, the media has been balanced in their coverage of the events surrounding this case.

    38

    7

    31

    62

    32

    30

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 3b

    AGREEMENT WITH COVERAGE & RESPONSE COMMENTS – by Region & Gender

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. adults

    Total

    Region

    Gender

    NE

    MW

    South

    West

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Agree

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The trial received excessive news coverage.

    85

    83

    87

    82

    88

    85

    85

    I think it is inappropriate that coverage of the trial has been more broadly covered than recent violence elsewhere in the country.

    74

    71

    73

    74

    76

    73

    75

    The public response to the verdict has largely been responsible.

    52

    56

    52

    53

    48

    51

    53

    I think it is appropriate that the trial has received a similar amount of attention as recent allegations of widespread U.S. surveillance programs.

    41

    36

    40

    43

    43

    38

    43

    Overall, the media has been balanced in their coverage of the events surrounding this case.

    38

    39

    37

    36

    39

    37

    39

    Disagree

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The trial received excessive news coverage.

    15

    17

    13

    18

    12

    15

    15

    I think it is inappropriate that coverage of the trial has been more broadly covered than recent violence elsewhere in the country.

    26

    29

    27

    26

    24

    27

    25

    The public response to the verdict has largely been responsible.

    48

    44

    48

    47

    52

    49

    47

    I think it is appropriate that the trial has received a similar amount of attention as recent allegations of widespread U.S. surveillance programs.

    59

    64

    60

    57

    57

    62

    57

    Overall, the media has been balanced in their coverage of the events surrounding this case.

    62

    61

    63

    64

    61

    63

    61

     

    TABLE 3c

    AGREEMENT WITH COVERAGE & RESPONSE COMMENTS – by Age & Children <18 in HH

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. adults

    Total

    Age

    Race/Ethnicity

    18-34

    35-44

    18-34

    35-44

    White

    Black

    Hispanic

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Agree

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The trial received excessive news coverage.

    85

    85

    85

    85

    84

    88

    67

    82

    I think it is inappropriate that coverage of the trial has been more broadly covered than recent violence elsewhere in the country.

    74

    73

    73

    74

    75

    77

    51

    70

    The public response to the verdict has largely been responsible.

    52

    52

    50

    52

    53

    49

    70

    58

    I think it is appropriate that the trial has received a similar amount of attention as recent allegations of widespread U.S. surveillance programs.

    41

    44

    40

    38

    40

    34

    70

    48

    Overall, the media has been balanced in their coverage of the events surrounding this case.

    38

    41

    32

    34

    40

    32

    65

    49

    Disagree

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The trial received excessive news coverage.

    15

    15

    15

    15

    16

    12

    33

    18

    I think it is inappropriate that coverage of the trial has been more broadly covered than recent violence elsewhere in the country.

    26

    27

    27

    26

    25

    23

    49

    30

    The public response to the verdict has largely been responsible.

    48

    48

    50

    48

    47

    51

    30

    42

    I think it is appropriate that the trial has received a similar amount of attention as recent allegations of widespread U.S. surveillance programs.

    59

    56

    60

    62

    60

    66

    30

    52

    Overall, the media has been balanced in their coverage of the events surrounding this case.

    62

    59

    68

    66

    60

    68

    35

    51

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between July 16 and 18, 2013 among 2,034 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    The Harris Poll® #47, July 23, 2013

    By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

     

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