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Public Opinion Surrounding the Trayvon Martin Shooting

Methodology

Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research conducted a nationwide research study of adults.  Respondents were screened to ensure that they were neither a member of the news media or a public relations company.  The sample for this survey was weighted match the US population on age, gender, geography, and ethnicity

Respondents were contacted by phone via a live telephone operator interview March 27th – 28th 2012.  The study has a sample size of 811 adults with a margin of error of ±3.4%.

Key Findings

The last few days have moved public opinion significantly in favor of George Zimmerman.

  • In CNN’s poll conducted last weekend, 73% of American adults thought that Zimmerman should be arrested.
  • Just a few days later, our poll conducted Tuesday and Wednesday revealed that just 48% of Americans believe he should be arrested. Our poll matched the partisan distribution of the CNN poll, so this is a real and significant change in opinion as more key details came out over a few brief days.

The initial media coverage of this incident clearly biased the way Americans view the issue. Those who have seen the most information about the incident have the most antagonistic attitudes toward George Zimmerman. 

  • Nearly three-in-five (59%) of those who say they have seen “a great deal” about the story believe that Zimmerman should be arrested. This is compared to 48% overall who believe he should be arrested.
  • Those who haven’t been exposed to as much coverage are much less likely to blame Zimmerman—only 38% of those who have heard less about the incident feel that he should be arrested.

Results

WPA asked respondents whether they believed George Zimmerman should be arrested for the shooting of Trayvon Martin.  The wording, which exactly matches the wording of an earlier CNN poll, and the results are below:

Based on what you have read or heard about this incident, do you think the police should or should not arrest George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon Martin?

  • Should                   48%
  • Should Not             16%
  • Unsure                   36%

WPA also included a question that asked respondents which version of events they agreed with more.  The exact wording and the results are below:

(Some/Other) people say that…George Zimmerman was attacked by Trayvon Martin, suffering a broken nose and injuries to the back of his head, and he was acting in his own self-defense. Because he was defending himself he should not be arrested for shooting Trayvon Martin.

…while…

(Some/Other) people say that…Trayvon Martin was minding his own business eating skittles and talking on the phone with his girlfriend when George Zimmerman provoked him and then shot him. His only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time and George Zimmerman should be arrested and charged with murder.

  • Zimmerman was attacked                     18%
  • Martin minding his own business          39%
  • Neither                                                  11%
  • Both                                                        4%
  • Don’t know                                            27%

WPA also included a question that asked respondents whether learning more information about Trayvon Martin changed their opinion of the case.  The exact wording and the results are below:

According to information in recent reports, Trayvon Martin had been suspended from his Miami school three times for offenses including skipping classes, vandalism, and, at the time of his death, was in the midst of a two week suspension for possession of a bag containing marijuana residue. Does knowing this information in any way change your opinion of the case?

  • TOTAL YES                         21%
  • TOTAL NO                           52%
  • Strongly Yes                          6%
  • Somewhat Yes                     16%
  • No Difference                       21%
  • Don’t know                             5%
  • Somewhat No                       12%
  • Strongly No                          41%
Full Topline Results:
 
 
Crosstabs:

About Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research

Since 1998, WPA Opinion Research has been a leading provider of political polling for campaigns from Mayor and City Council to Governor, U.S. Senate and President in all 50 states and over 30 foreign countries.  In 2009-2010 alone, WPA conducted polling in over 200 races for campaigns, caucuses, and independent expenditures efforts.

In addition to our political and policy research, WPA Opinion Research provides donor research to Christian and other not-for-profit organizations and alumni research to colleges and universities.  More than 200 Christian and other not-for-profit organizations around the country and dozens of large and small colleges and universities have relied on WPA’s data and analysis.

WPA’s corporate research arm has provided market research to more than 100 of the Fortune 500 and to hundreds of small and medium businesses nationwide.

 


 

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