NY Times/CBS Poll: US Divided Racially on Brown Shooting

Friday, 22 Aug 2014 08:40 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Opinions on the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, are strongly divided among racial lines, the latest New York Times/CBS poll shows, but still most people feel race relations in their own communities are good.

However, there is a rising feeling among whites that race relations are troubled, The New York Times reported.

The poll also shows that while most whites are reserving judgment over whether police officer Darren Wilson was justified in shooting the unarmed teenager, most black respondents said the incident was unjustified.

The nationwide telephone poll of 1,025 adults, conducted on Aug. 19 and 20, shows there are differences in how black people and white people see the protests and violence in Ferguson since the shooting.

Just 15 percent of the white respondents said the mostly black protesters' actions were right, compared to 38 percent of black respondents.

The public is also divided over the police response to the protests, which have continued both peacefully and violently since the shooting on Aug. 9, but black Americans were almost twice as likely as whites to blame the police.

The poll also reveals that black people think police are more likely to use deadly force against a black suspect than a white one, but most whites believe race does not make a difference in the officer's decision.

Forty-five percent of the black respondents said a police officer had racially discriminated against them, but almost none of the white people in the poll said they had faced that issue.

The poll further showed that while 60 percent of blacks say police departments should reflect a community's racial population, white respondents were evenly divided. In Ferguson, about two-thirds of the St. Louis suburb's 21,000 residents are black. Its police department has just three black officers out of a force of 53.

Blacks and whites were also divided over whether a local investigation into the shooting will be handled fairly. About six out of 10 black respondents said they do not think the investigation will be fair, but an equal number of whites had faith that it will.

Respondents from both races, though, by a two-thirds response, said military-style equipment should be reserved for the National Guard and the military itself, not used by police departments.

The police response in Ferguson netted worldwide attention when officers used armored vehicles to loft tear gas into the crowds of protesters, and when officers lined up in military-style gear and rifles at the scene.

However, Americans remain positive about race relations in their own communities, the poll shows, with about three-quarters of the people of both races saying the situation where they live is good.

The poll's margin of error was 4 percentage points for all adults, 5 percentage points for whites and 8 percentage points for blacks, according to the Times.

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