Saturday, July 20, 2013
Reactions to the George Zimmerman verdict highlight how wide the racial divide remains in America.
At week’s end, 44% of Americans agreed with the Florida jury’s finding Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin, down from 48% earlier in the week. Thirty-five percent (35%) disagreed, but that included 80% of black Americans.
The verdict was reached by an all-white jury of six women. Sixty-five percent (65%) of blacks do not think it is possible for an all-white jury to fairly decide a case involving the shooting death of a black man. Seventy percent (70%) of whites think it is possible.
Among those who agree with the jury verdict, most believe Zimmerman was innocent and acting in self-defense. However, nearly a third believe neither side was able to prove its case and that the jury verdict merely reflected the fact that Americans are innocent until proven guilty.
Overall, that means 35% think Zimmerman should have been found guilty, 29% believe he was innocent, 21% are not sure, and 13% agree with the jury verdict because neither side proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Just 32% of Americans now have a favorable opinion of Zimmerman, while 48% view him unfavorably.
Still, only 24% believe Zimmerman’s actions that led to Martin’s death were motivated primarily by racism. Just 21% believe the Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer should now be charged with a hate crime by the U.S. Department of Justice.
But on virtually every question related to this case, there is a wide racial difference of opinion.
Scott Rasmussen's latest weekly newspaper column says America's race relations may have changed over the past half-century, "but we have failed to honestly confront our past." He adds, "If our nation is ever to truly become a land of liberty and justice for all, we need to have an honest discussion about race. The evidence of the past few weeks makes me doubt we are ready for that today."
Currently, 32% of voters believe American society is generally unfair and discriminatory. That's near the highest level ever recorded.
Just 30% say the country is heading in the right direction, and voters remain pessimistic about the nation's future. Thirty-six percent (36%) think America’s best days are still to come, but 49% think those days have come and gone. This ties the highest level of pessimism in nearly a year.
Confidence in the nation’s safety against terrorism is at its lowest level in several years. Only 39% of voters believe the United States today is safer than it was before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Confidence jumped to 51% after Osama bin Laden’s death in May 2011 and hadn’t fallen below 40% until now.
Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans continue to feel that Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should receive the death penalty if convicted. Fifty-three percent (53%) say it’s at least somewhat likely that he will receive the death penalty.
President Obama’s job approval ratings remain at levels seen throughout most of his first term, down from the bounce they experienced just after his reelection. Positive assessments of his leadership have fallen to their lowest level in over a year of regular tracking. Forty-three percent (43%) of voters now consider the president a good or excellent leader. Thirty-eight percent (38%) give him poor marks for leadership.
Just 45% hold a favorable opinion of the president’s national health care law. Voters continue to believe costs will go up and quality with suffer under the new law. Eighty percent (80%) think the law is likely to cost more than official estimates.
Voters strongly disagree with the Obama administration’s decision to make it easier for low-income Americans to qualify for health insurance subsidies under the new health care law. Eighty-six percent (86%) think these individuals should be forced to prove they are eligible by documenting their income and their lack of access to insurance.
Forty-four percent (44%) of voters now rate the president's handling of health care issues as good or excellent. That's up from June’s low of 38% but more in line with regular surveying earlier this year. Forty-three percent (43%) rate the president poorly on health care.
Twenty-one percent (21%) believe the president’s new regulations on the coal industry will help the economy, but twice as many (41%) think those regulations will hurt the economy instead. Interestingly, voters now view the U.S. coal industry more favorably than the Environmental Protection Agency and are closely divided when asked if the Obama administration’s ultimate goal is to kill that industry.
Most voters believe that all new EPA regulations should require congressional approval before going into effect. But then 60% think it is more important to preserve our constitutional system of checks and balances than it is for government to operate efficiently.
“Many in politics act as if the end result is creating a government that works,” Scott Rasmussen notes. “However, the real goal should be to create a society that works. A system of careful checks and balances may frustrate political activists from both parties, but it protects the American people from over-zealous politicians and the demagoguery of passing political fads.”
Senate Democrats threatened Republicans this week with changing long-standing Senate rules and effectively eliminating the minority’s filibuster power to delay certain nominations and votes, but the two sides reached a last-minute compromise. Forty-four percent (44%) favor the proposed elimination of the filibuster; 38% oppose it. The filibuster is not a constitutional protection.
For the third week in a row, Republicans hold a one-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot.
Consumer and investor confidence remains down from a month ago but is still near its highest levels in several years.
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In other surveys this week:
-- Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans now think the spike in food stamp recipients is chiefly because government rules have made it easier to get food stamps. Fifty percent (50%) believe it is too easy to get food stamps in this country, a 10-point increase from December 2010.
-- Most voters think it's possible for the United States to achieve energy independence through shale oil development and government-funded programs to promote alternative energy sources.
-- Forty-four percent (44%) of voters favor a ban on abortion after 20 weeks. Forty-one percent (41%) oppose such a ban. Forty-eight percent (48%) favor a law that would require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals before they can perform abortions.
-- Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americas believe government subsidies should be used to keep costs lower on student loan interest rates. But 81% think lowering tuition costs would do more to help college students than giving them easier access to student loans. Fifty-three percent (53%), in fact, believe the availability of student loans has actually helped increase the cost of college tuition.
-- Three-out-of-four Americans still prefer a traditional book over an electronic book-reading device and continue to reads books that way.
-- Fifty-six percent (56%) say they rarely or never eat a meal from a fast food restaurant during a typical week.
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