How Americans perceive the recent violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Linley SandersData Journalist
September 02, 2020, 7:04 PM UTC

President Donald Trump spoke in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday following deadly event last week where a 17-year-old gunman killed two people and injuring a third who was participating in a protest against police brutality. The protests in Kenosha were originally sparked by the shooting of a 29-year-old Black man, Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times by police and is now paralyzed.  

Data from the Yahoo News/YouGov Poll, conducted August 27 – 28, shows that most Americans (58%) have been following the news out of Kenosha. Half of America (50%) has watched the video taken by a bystander of the police officer shooting Blake in front of his children, and about half (49%) of Americans say the police officer’s action was not justified. Most (54%) believe that Blake’s race played a factor in why he was shot seven times. 

Democrats are particularly likely to believe that Blake’s race played a major factor (69%) in the shooting, while a plurality of Republicans say race was not a factor (46%). 

Following the shooting of Blake, protesters demanded accountability from local law enforcement through a series of marches and protests. On Tuesday, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, walked around the protest area with a military-style semi-automatic rifle when he encounters a group of demonstrators who chased him, according to a New York Times analysis of footage of the scene. The context around the altercation is unknown. Rittenhouse falls and begins shooting as three people rush toward him. He was later arrested and charged with homicide. 

Conservative Fox News personality, Tucker Carlson, defended Rittenhouse’s actions as trying to maintain order in Kenosha when no one else would. However, four in five (80%) Americans say Rittenhouse was “wrong to take matters into his own hands,” compared to one in five (20%) who say he was “right to try to maintain order when no one else would.” 

In a video taken prior to the shooting, Rittenhouse appears to identify himself as a member of a local militia that is protecting businesses. The Yahoo News/YouGov Poll shows that two-thirds of Americans (68%) believe armed individuals or militias should stand aside and let the police do their job during protests. One-third of Americans say that armed individuals should take to the streets to defend property. 

Related: Will the country become safer under a Donald Trump or Joe Biden presidency? 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Yahoo News/YouGov Poll   

Methodology: The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,001 U.S. adult residents interviewed online August 27-28, 2020. The respondents all participated in a prior Yahoo News survey conducted July 28-30, 2020 and were contacted to participate. Of the 1,506 adults in the July 28-30, 2020 survey, 1,001 responded to this survey – a recontact rate of 66.5%. Respondents were re-interviewed from the previous nationally representative survey. The sample was weighted to gender, age, race, education, geographic region, news interest, 2016 Presidential vote and registration status, and baseline vote intention of the first wave. The margin of error is 4.2 percent (and 4.5 percent for the sample of registered voters).   

Image: Getty