Chauvin conviction matches public hope and expectation

April 21, 2021, 1:47 PM UTC

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction on murder and manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd was something Americans wanted – and something they expected to see.

The latest Economist/YouGov poll, completed just as the verdict was read, saw both white and Black Americans agreeing on what that verdict should be.  

A plurality of Republicans, however, had been hoping he would not be charged with murder (albeit, not expecting it).  

While both white men and white women believed Chauvin should be found guilty, white men were more willing to side with Chauvin. White men thought he should be found guilty by an eight-point margin – 41% to 33% – while among white women this lead was more than thirty points, at 52% to 20%. 

Americans know that minority-police relations are bad nationally, but split on whether this is the case where they live 

Americans believe there are racial differences in policing and have believed this for a long time – even before Floyd’s death. More than half in this poll say police do not treat Black and white people equally, and that deaths of Black Americans while in police custody are signs of a broader problem and not just isolated incidents. 

While both white and Black Americans recognize that relations between minorities and the police are bad nationally, they divide on what is happening in their own communities. A majority of Black respondents view local police-minority relations in their communities as bad; white respondents believe (or perhaps hope) they are good. 

Party differences are particularly dramatic among white Americans. White Democrats divide evenly on whether or not police-minority relations in their own communities are good or bad; by three to one, white Republicans say they are good. More than half of white Republicans say police-minority relations nationally are good; white Democrats describe them as bad by two to one. 

The next case? Kim Potter 

The willingness of Americans to support a guilty verdict for Chauvin may suggest a greater willingness to see police go on trial for the killings of Black people who were in police custody. Both white and Black people approve of the manslaughter charges just brought against 26-year veteran officer Kim Potter.  

Potter was charged in the killing of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop less than two weeks ago in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, though many disbelieve her claim that she mistook her gun for the taser she meant to use.  

Death in Police Custody

Potter was charged with second-degree manslaughter (not the murder charges Chauvin faced). While both white and Black respondents approve of the charge, there may be some who disapprove because it is a lesser charge than murder. Americans overall are split on whether they believe her claim that she mixed up her gun and taser (42% believe her, 38% do not). Black Americans are especially skeptical, refusing to believe Potter by more than two to one (26% to 60%). 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov poll 

Related: Decision to pause Johnson & Johnson vaccine causes public confidence in vaccine to sink

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between April 17 - 20, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 2.7% for the overall sample  

Image: Getty