Response to Ferguson shooting divided on racial lines, study finds

Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, who was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, raises important issues about race that need to be discussed, a new study finds.

The study, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, finds that other issues around the shooting, including whether police responded too aggressively to the riots that followed and the level of confidence the public has in the ensuing investigations, also break down along racial and sometimes political lines.

Among all adults surveyed, 44 percent say the case raises important issues about race while another 40 percent say race is getting more attention than it deserves. When those numbers are broken down by race, a full eight in 10 blacks said the race issues were important compared to 37 percent of whites. Eighteen percent of blacks said race was getting more attention than deserved, while a full 47 percent of whites did.

Still, whites were more likely to say that race got too much attention after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting death Florida teenager Trayvon Martin than they are now in relation to Brown's death. Sixty percent of whites said race got too much attention in Martin's death.

That trend was present, but less pronounced, when assessing the police response to the shooting. Sixty-five percent of blacks and just 33 percent of whites said the police had gone too far, whereas just 20 percent of blacks and 32 percent of whites said it had been about right. Fifteen percent of blacks and a full 35 percent of whites had no response.

Just 18 percent of blacks but more than half of whites (52 percent) say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the investigations that are being conducted. Three-quarters of blacks (76 percent) and one third of whites (33 percent) say they do not have much or any confidence of that.

Democrats were more likely to say that the case raises important issues of raise, with 68 percent of Democrats and just 22 percent of Republicans agreeing with that position. Sixty-one percent of Republicans say race has gotten too much attention, while just 21 percent of Democrats hold that opinion.

Republicans were also more likely to view the police response as appropriate (43 percent) and say they have confidence in the investigations (65 percent), while 56 percent of Democrats say the police went too far and only 38 percent have confidence in the investigations.

The poll was based on landline and cellular telephone interviews with 1,000 adults ages 18 and older. The margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level ranges from 3.6 to 11.1 percentage points based on the different groups sampled.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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