Opinion research sees sharp divide over the shooting of Trayvon Martin, with Whites and Republicans most likely to back Zimmerman
On July 13th, a Florida jury proclaimed George Zimmerman not guilty on any charges in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. This has scarcely silenced debate on the subject, however, with many still passionately debating whether Zimmerman was justified in shooting Martin and whether he should face additional federal charges.
New research from YouGov shows America sharply divided on these questions. Overall, 32% of Americans believe that George Zimmerman was justified in shooting Trayvon Martin after an altercation began between the neighborhood watch volunteer and the Florida teen. 41% say that Zimmerman was not justified in shooting him.
The question reveals stark political and racial differences. A majority of (71%) Democrats say that Zimmerman was not justified in shooting Martin, while a majority (60%) of Republicans say that he was.
80% of African-Americans think that Zimmerman was not justified in the shooting, while Whites were nearly evenly split with 36% saying that the shooting was justified and 39% saying it was not. Hispanics mirrored most closely the national average, with 30% believing the shooting to be justified and 43% say that it was not justified.
While Americans are more likely to say the shooting was not justified, only 26% think that Zimmerman should face federal prosecution under hate crimes legislation for his actions. 54% say that he should not face such prosecution.
Again, Americans are firmly divided by race and political affiliation on the question. Slightly more Democrats (44%) say that he should face prosecution than not (33%). The vast majority of Republicans (80%), on the other hand, say that he should not face federal hate crimes charges.
Black adults are most likely to say that he should face federal prosection, with 66% saying that he should. 63% of white adults on the other hand say that he should not be federally prosecuted. Hispanics are more split, with 26% supporting federal prosecution and 39% opposing it.
The Justice Department has said that they are looking into whether there is sufficient evidence to file federal charges against Zimmerman. While analysts say that the likelihood of a succcesful prosecution, probably under federal hate crimes legislation, is slim, more than a million people have signed an online NAACP petition requesting it and protests against the not guilty verdict have occured across the country.
Full results can be found here.