Multiple prominent trials are taking place currently, but only one seems to have riveted the public’s attention, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll. It is the just-concluded trial of television star Jussie Smollett. Nearly three in four Americans have heard something about the trial of the former Empire actor, who was recently convicted of felony disorderly conduct for staging a racist attack on himself two years ago in Chicago.
Most people agree that the guilty verdict against Smollett was the right one. By a margin of eight to one, Americans say he should have been found guilty of falsely reporting a hate crime. Democrats and Republicans, as well as Black and white Americans, agree with the verdict.
Americans are also paying attention to the ongoing trial of Ghislaine Maxwell; 62% say they have heard something about Maxwell’s trial, in which she is accused of assisting Jeffrey Epstein in sexually exploiting minors. Americans are less familiar with two other high-profile trials involving women defendants; 41% have heard something about the wire fraud trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, while just 33% have heard anything about the trial of Kimberly Potter, the former Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop earlier this year.
The Potter trial, like several others recently, involves a white police officer killing a Black man. Potter claims she mistook her gun for her taser. While some people find that to be a plausible scenario, just as many reject the possibility. On this question there is significant disagreement among Democrats and Republicans, as well as Black and white Americans.
Republicans are likely to find claims such as Potter’s believable, while Democrats do not. By a margin of two to one, Black Americans do not find it believable that a police officer could accidentally use their taser instead of their gun. White Americans do, though by a relatively narrow margin.
But more than half of Americans don’t yet have an opinion on Potter’s guilt or innocence of manslaughter in Wright’s death. While 28% say she should be found guilty, 17% disagree. More than half of Black Americans have an opinion. By 45% to 12%, they say she is guilty.
Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between December 12 and December 14, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education 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.