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How Would the Media React If the Cop Was Black and the Victim Was White?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Most Americans think the media would be less interested in the incident in Ferguson, Missouri if a white teenager had been shot by a black police officer. They also reject the idea that most policemen are racist.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 35% of American Adults rate the media’s coverage of the police shooting and subsequent events in Ferguson as good or excellent. Twenty-three percent (23%) say the media have done a poor job covering the story. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

But 54% say the media would have offered less coverage of the story if a black policeman shot a white teenager. Fourteen percent (14%) think the story would have gotten more coverage under those circumstances, while 23% think the level of coverage would have been about the same.

Even 43% of black adults believe the story would have gotten less attention if the victim was white, but that compares to 55% of whites and 53% of other minority adults who feel that way.

The name of the shooter, Darren Wilson, was released to the media late last week, and 39% of all adults nationwide agree with that decision. But slightly more (44%) don’t think the Ferguson police officer’s name should have been released. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided.

Fourteen percent (14%) of Americans believe most police officers are racist, but 61% disagree. One-in-four (26%) are undecided. 

Fifty-seven percent (57%) say the tactics used by their local police are about right. Fifty-one percent (51%) think America needs more cops.

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The national telephone survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted by Rasmussen Reports on August 15-16, 2014. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Fieldwork for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology

Twenty-five percent (25%) of Americans believe most of their fellow countrymen are racist. Eighty-two percent (82%) agree, however, that the term "racism" refers to any discrimination by people of one race against another. Just nine percent (9%) think racism refers only to discrimination by white people against minorities.

Twenty-two percent (22%) of blacks and other minorities think most cops are racist, compared to just nine percent (9%) of whites.

Fifty-three percent (53%) of blacks think the policeman's name should have been made public. Just 36% of whites and 40% of other minority Americans agree.

But blacks and whites have sharply different views on what has happened in Ferguson and what should happen next. While the investigation continues, most black Americans (57%) are already convinced that the police officer should be found guilty of murder, a view shared by just 17% of whites and 24% of other minority adults.

Men feel even more strongly than women that the story would have gotten less media coverage if a black cop shot a white teenager. Men are also more critical of the media coverage of the incident. Most Americans of all ages agree the story would have gotten less media coverage if the racial roles were reversed.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) of adults who think the shooter’s name should not have been released to the media think the story would have gotten less coverage if the shooting victim was white. Forty-four percent (44%) of those who think the police officer’s name should have been released agree.

Democrats and adults not affiliated with either major political party are twice as likely as Republicans to think most police officers are racist. Republicans (69%) feel more strongly than Democrats (43%) and unaffiliateds (52%) that the Ferguson incident would have gotten less coverage if the shooter was black and the victim was white.

Regardless of the media coverage in this case, 68% of all Americans have been following recent news reports about the shooting in the St. Louis suburb, but only 30% say they’ve been following Very Closely. Blacks are following much more closely than whites and other minority adults.

Only 34% of Americans now rate race relations in the United States as good or excellent. Just 31% think those relations are getting better.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) regard the news reported by the media as at least somewhat trustworthy, but that includes only 20% who consider it Very Trustworthy.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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