Few Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll expect a conviction in the Kyle Rittenhouse case – though more say he should be convicted.
The jury is deliberating in Rittenhouse’s trial for shooting and killing two white men and injuring a third during last year’s protests after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In the poll conducted mostly in the days before deliberations began, more than eight in 10 Americans said they have heard a little or a lot about the Rittenhouse trial – including nearly half who said they have heard “a lot” about it. (In contrast, only 17% said they had heard “a lot” about COP26, the global climate change conference that just ended.)
Expectations of the end result are not much different among political groups, but do differ by race. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all expect that Rittenhouse will not be convicted, though by different margins. But Black Americans are just as likely to say they expect a conviction as an acquittal of Rittenhouse, who is white.
Americans who are paying a lot of attention to the trial are even more convinced than those paying less or no attention that Rittenhouse will be found not guilty.
There is a bigger racial divide on what people think should happen in the Rittenhouse case, rather than what they expect will happen. Black Americans overwhelmingly think Rittenhouse should be found guilty of homicide. White Americans are closely divided. The political divide is even starker. Democrats are 71 points more likely to say he should be found guilty than to say he should be acquitted, while Republicans are 50 points more likely to say he should be acquitted than convicted.
Americans who are paying a lot of attention to the trial tend to say Rittenhouse should be found guilty, though by a narrower margin than among all Americans.
Many Americans who favor conviction would not be surprised by an acquittal. Of people who say Rittenhouse should be convicted, 36% say he will be convicted, 32% say he Rittenhouse will be acquitted, and the rest say they don’t know.
Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between November 14 and November 16, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, and region based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the overall sample.