Sharp divisions, both political and racial, affect how Americans view the recent shooting of a Ferguson, Missouri, teenager by a police officer and its aftermath.
A Pew Research poll
has found that viewpoints on the shooting and police reaction to the riots and looting which followed are acutely divided, with Republicans and Democrats, and blacks and whites, virtually polar opposites on how they see the controversy.
Eighty percent of black people believe the shooting raises serious questions about racial relations, while only 18 percent believe the case has received too much attention.
However, among whites surveyed, 47 percent believe the racial aspects of the case are getting too much attention, while only 37 percent feel the case raises important racial questions.
The division carries over into political persuasion. Among Democrats, 68 percent believe the shooting raises important questions about race, while only 22 percent of Republicans agree, The Hill
When it comes to trusting the police investigation, 76 percent of blacks say they do not, while 52 percent of whites expressed some confidence in the police investigation.
Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, 28, a six-year veteran, resulting in a week of looting, rioting, and burning as police responded forcefully. Eventually, the National Guard was called in to quell the disturbance.
The poll was conducted among 1,000 people from Aug. 14-17, with only 11 percent black participation.
Nearly twice as many blacks as whites believe the police response to the rioting was too forceful, at 65 percent versus 33 percent.. While 43 percent of Republicans believe the police response was appropriate, 56 percent of Democrats say the police response was too severe.
Illustrating the division, the shooting has triggered protests in support of Wilson and in opposition to those protesting Brown's death. Several dozen people protested in downtown St. Louis in a show of public support for Wilson, who has received death threats and has gone into hiding on a paid leave of absence. Two Facebook pages in support of Wilson have garnered 35,000 "likes," according to the Daily Mail.
"They can make it a black/white thing, but it's not," protester John Newsham, 55, a retired St. Louis police detective, told the Daily Mail. "It should be about the rule of law."
Protester Martin Baker told the Mail, "I have respect for the police. Here in America we are a society of law and order. You must maintain law and order or you will become a community that is reckless and doesn't care."
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