Significant, not only because it’s the first major poll of public opinion about the verdict but because Holder will think twice about bringing federal charges if he believes it’s a sure political loser for his boss.
We’ll need more polls before drawing hard conclusions but here’s data point number one:
Reactions to the jury decision in the shooting of Trayvon Martin vary sharply along racial lines.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 48% of American Adults agree with the jury’s verdict that Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman is not guilty of murder in the shooting death of the black teenager. Thirty-four percent (34%) disagree with the Florida jury’s verdict. Eighteen percent (18%) are not sure.
I have the crosstabs in front of me but they’re reg-walled for subscribers only, so I’ll give you the broad outline without providing actual numbers. The white/black split on the verdict is what you’d expect, as is the fact that men are much more likely to agree with the outcome than women are. One big question mark is how Latinos feel about it; Rasmussen didn’t list them as a separate racial demographic in the poll, choosing to include everyone who’s neither white nor black in the “other” category, but “other” ended up agreeing with the verdict almost (but not quite) to the same extent as the public generally did. Politico marveled last night that not once during four separate interviews yesterday with Univision and Telemundo did Obama get a question about the Zimmerman verdict, even though the White House issued a statement about it on Sunday and the DOJ is supposedly seriously considering filing federal charges. Not one question. Said one TV executive: “It’s unbelievable that any journalist with access to the President this week wouldn’t ask the first African-American president about his reaction to the verdict.” Indeed it is, but it makes sense if you assume that it’s not so much an oversight as a deliberate omission. Spanish-language media and Obama are united in wanting comprehensive immigration reform; the whole point of the interviews was to give O a pipeline to Latino voters in order to put pressure on the GOP. If, as Rasmussen’s numbers suggest (but don’t prove), Latinos lean toward thinking that Zimmerman deserved to be acquitted, then both O and his partners at Univision and Telemundo would want to stay away from this subject lest it complicate the White House’s PR initiative.
Rasmussen also asked people what they thought of media coverage of the trial, but those results are hard to parse. Only a few people think it was “excellent,” but the spread among “good,” “fair,” and “poor” isn’t wide. And of course, “poor” can include people from both ends of the spectrum, those who think the coverage was unfair to Zimmerman and those who think it was, surreally, biased in his favor. There isn’t a wide racial gap here, in fact; the big gap, oddly, comes among men under 40 and women under 40. The former thought the coverage was quite good. The latter didn’t. Huh. Maybe that’s just a fluke from a small subsample.