42% say Trayvon got favorable treatment because of race

July 18, 2013, 12:14 PM GMT+0

Many Americans think that the media was too favorable to Trayvon Martin because of his race, and are split on whether young, black men are treated fairly by the police and courts.

George Zimmerman was acquitted on all counts on July 13th, but the case has highlighted the racial divisions within American society. Much of the media coverage of the trial focused on the significance of the case on race relations in Sanford and in the country as a whole.

The latest YouGov research shows that 42% of Americans think that Trayvon Martin was treated more favorably by the media due to his race. There is a significant divide along political lines, however, with Democrats (42%) being most likely to say he received unfavorable treatment from the media because he was black. 68% of Republicans, on the other hand, say that he was treated favorably by the media for the same reason.

When people are asked the same question about George Zimmerman's treatment by the media because of his race, the result is largely the inverse. 69% of Republicans say that he was treated unfavorably because of his race, while only 17% of Democrats agreed. What race George Zimmerman is best described as has become an issue of debate, with Zimmerman identifying as Hispanic on some documents but often being described as white in the media.

In both cases Independents tended to agree with Republicans, with a plurality of Independents saying that Trayvon Martin was treated favorably and George Zimmerman was treated unfavorably. Younger Americans were significantly more likely than older Americans to say that Trayvon Martin received unfavorable treatment and that George Zimmerman received favorable treatment.

Much of the legal wrangling over the case focused on the issue of self-defense and whether it was clear or not that Zimmerman had used disproportionate force in shooting Trayvon Martin. When asked whether the decision - which is viewed by many as a victory for looser self-defense laws - makes you personally feel safer or not, only 8% say that it makes them feel more safe. 55% of Americans say they feel as safe as they did before, while 28% feel less safe. This is particularly pronounced among black Americans, with 46% saying that they now feel less safe than they did before.

When people were asked if young, black American men are treated fairly by the police and courts, 44% of Americans say they are not while 37% say that they are. Democrats, the young and non-white Americans are most likely to say that young, black men are not treated fairly by the justice system. Interestingly, there are small but noteworthy regional divisions on this issue. Americans in the Midwest are the only group who are more likely to believe that young, black men are treated fairly than unfairly. 49% of people in the Northeast and West think that they are treated unfairly, with only 31% of people in the West thinking they are treated fairly.