Poll Shows Racial Divide Over Trayvon Martin Murder

Zimmerman claimed Treyvon pursued him
Zimmerman claimed Treyvon pursued him

Blacks and whites across the country view the Trayvon Martin case and its potential racial implications in largely different ways, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.

In one of the starkest differences, 73% of Black people said they think George Zimmerman would have been arrested if Trayvon was White; only 33% of white people agreed. The majority of White people polled — 52% — said race made no difference in the way the case was handled.

Trayvon, 17, was shot and killed Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., as he returned to a gated community after buying candy at a store. Trayvon’s family said he was followed and killed because Zimmerman deemed him “suspicious” because the teen was Black and was wearing a hoodie.

“There are really profound differences in the world views of Blacks and Whites,” said Vincent Hutchings, a political science professor at the University of Michigan.

It is no surprise that Black people in the U.S., a group that has been historically and arguably continuously discriminated against, will look at Trayvon’s killing as part of a long narrative of injustice, Hutchings said.

He also said that White people, a group that often enjoys racial privileges, do not want to think of the world as a place where unarmed teenagers would get profiled and killed because it would call into question their unearned positions of power.

Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain whose family said he is Hispanic, has not been charged. He said he shot the unarmed youth in self-defense.

Nationwide, race seems to be a major factor in whether people think Zimmerman should be charged. Black people were more likely to think Zimmerman is guilty of a crime: 51% said he was definitely guilty; 21% said he was probably guilty. White people were more inclined to reserve judgment: 58% said his guilt was unclear based on available information.

The poll also showed that 72% of Black people think racial bias was a major factor in Trayvon’s shooting. White Americans were split on the question of racial bias — 30% said it was a major factor, 26% said it was a minor factor and 27% said it was not a factor.

The poll of 3,006 adults was taken Monday to Wednesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.