Whites, Republicans less likely to say that Ferguson shooting raises racial issues

1,000 adult Americans were polled in a three-day period

By Joanna Rothkopf
August 18, 2014 10:37PM (UTC)
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People in a crowd hold signs and listen to speakers at a demonstration on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014, in Decatur, Georgia, in the town square. The demonstration of more than 200 people was held in response to the shooting death of Michael Brown and following unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. (AP Photo/ Ron Harris) (Ron Harris)

A new study on reactions to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown has been conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The study finds that reactions are sharply divided between blacks and whites, with black people twice as likely to say that the shooting "raises important issues about race that need to be discussed."

44 percent of those polled believe that the case raises important issues about race, while 40 percent think race is getting more attention than it deserves. Among these respondents, 80 percent of African Americans say that issues of race are worth discussing, while 47 percent of whites think it is getting too much attention.


While two-thirds of African Americans polled believe that the police response has been excessive, only a third of white respondents agree, with 32 percent saying the response is about right and 35 percent declining to respond to the question.

Respondents were also divided along age and party lines. According to the Pew Research Center:

Fully 68 percent of Democrats (including 62 percent of white Democrats) think the Brown case raises important issues about race that merit discussion. Just 21 percent of Democrats (including 25 percent of white Democrats) say questions of race are getting more attention than they deserve. Among Republicans, opinion is almost the reverse --  61 percent say the issue of race has gotten too much attention while 22 percent say the case has raised important racial issues that need to be discussed.

By a wide margin (55 percent to 34 percent), adults under 30 think the shooting of the unarmed teen raises important issues about race. Among those 65 and older, opinion is divided: 40 percent think the incident raises important racial issues while about as many (44 percent) think the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

The study was conducted from Aug. 14-17 among 1,000 adults aged 18 or older via telephone.

Joanna Rothkopf

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