NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – A clear majority of New Jerseyans say a Staten Island grand jury was wrong in its failure to indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of Eric Garner, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. At the same time, residents are significantly more supportive of the nonindictment in the Ferguson, Mo., shooting death of Michael Brown, killed by police officer Darren Wilson.
In the Ferguson case, where Brown was shot multiple times by Wilson, 45 percent of Garden Staters support that grand jury’s decision not to indict, while 39 percent say it was the wrong outcome. Sixteen percent are unsure.Just 26 percent of New Jerseyans think the New York grand jury made the right decision in the case of Garner, who was restrained in a chokehold, while 59 percent say the decision not to indict was wrong and 15 percent are not sure.
“The results in New Jersey parallel national polling that has shown Americans support the Ferguson decision but oppose the New York outcome,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “The differing perspectives on the two cases may reflect greater uncertainty about the facts in Ferguson. Those facts are contended, including the question of whether the police officer felt threatened for his life. There is less disagreement about what happened in New York.”
Across both cases, men are much more likely than women to support the grand jury decisions, while whites are dramatically more supportive than nonwhite residents. Garden Staters under 35 are noticeably less supportive of both grand jury decisions than older residents, as are Democrats compared with Republicans.
A vast racial divide in both cases
White New Jerseyans have very different reactions to both grand jury decisions than do non-white residents, the poll shows. In the Ferguson case, 62 percent of whites say the grand jury made the right choice in not indicting Wilson, while only 20 percent think the grand jurors got it wrong. But just 20 percent of nonwhite New Jerseyans agree with the Ferguson grand jury while 65 percent think Wilson should have been indicted.
Closer to home, while whites think Pantaleo should have been indicted in the Garner case, nonwhites are even less supportive of the outcome. Thirty-five percent of whites support the decision not to indict in New York, but just 14 percent of nonwhite New Jerseyans agree. And, while 46 percent of whites say the grand jury should have indicted the police officer, more than three-quarters of nonwhites take this position. Whites and nonwhites are equally likely to be unsure about the Ferguson case, but whites find the New York situation much less clear: 19 percent are unsure if the grand jury decision was correct, compared with just 9 percent of nonwhite residents.
“This is as wide a racial divide on an issue as we have seen in a very long time,” noted Redlawsk. “While the small sample size does not allow us to look at variation among nonwhites in any detail, we do know that virtually none of the black respondents in the poll support either grand jury decision.”
Results are from a statewide poll of 750 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Dec. 3-10, 2014, with a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. For these questions, respondents were randomly divided into two groups, with 385 in the Ferguson group and 365 in the NYC group. Respondents answered questions about only one of the two situations. The margin of error is +/- 5.6 percentage points for the Ferguson group and +/-5.8 for the NYC group.
To read the entire poll, click here.
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