POLITICS

More Than Six Months After Ferguson, Americans Remain Deeply Divided

02/18/2015 06:23 pm ET | Updated Feb 18, 2015
MICHAEL B. THOMAS via Getty Images

A little more than six months after an unarmed Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, Americans remain in many ways as divided along racial and partisan lines as they were this past autumn.

The biggest change since then -- and the one point of relative consensus -- is that the shooting, and the turmoil that followed, are now widely believed to have done serious harm to U.S. race relations. In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, 45 percent of Americans say the events did major damage to race relations in the country. That's a rise of 15 points since a November poll taken just before a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Brown. In the time since then, a separate grand jury has also declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who placed Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold last summer.


Chart created using Datawrapper.

Black Americans' trust in the criminal justice system, low to begin with, seems to have dropped even further since November. Only 6 percent of black Americans now say they believe the system treats people of different races equally, down from 22 percent in the earlier poll.

But just as in November, Americans as a whole are almost evenly divided on whether racial bias affects the police and criminal justice systems. Forty-one percent say most city police officers treat blacks and whites fairly, while 38 percent say they don't. Similarly, 41 percent say the criminal justice system treats people of different races equally, while 42 percent say it does not.

Half of Americans say there is no police brutality in the area where they personally live, while 25 percent say there is. The remainder are unsure.

Just 35 percent say that Brown's death last summer was part of a broader pattern in the way police officers treat black men, while 49 percent call it an isolated incident.

Black Americans are 23 points more likely than whites to say there is police brutality in their area. They are also 45 points more likely to say that police treat blacks and whites differently, and 50 points more likely to say the same of the criminal justice system. They're 43 points more likely to see the Brown shooting as part of a pattern, and 18 points more likely to see the damage to race relations from Ferguson as major.

Those same discrepancies are visible across party lines, albeit less dramatically. Democrats are considerably more likely than Republicans to perceive racial discrimination and police brutality.


Chart created using Datawrapper.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Feb. 11-13 among U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the poll's methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov's reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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