Americans Split on Zimmerman Verdict, but Not on Excessive Trial Coverage

Americans also somewhat divided on whether public response to the verdict has been responsible

Jul 23, 2013, 13:00 ET from Harris Interactive

NEW YORK, July 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- While July 13's "not guilty" verdict for George Zimmerman may have brought his trial to a close, the court of public opinion is far from done with the subject. The days since have seen both scathing critiques and staunch support for the jury's decision, and the Harris Poll finds the American public to be equally divided on the subject – though Americans do overwhelmingly agree that the trial was excessively covered.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,034 U.S. adults surveyed online between July 16 and 18, 2013 by Harris Interactive. (Full findings, including data tables and additional perceptual breakdowns, available here)

Americans at odds on verdict overall, but partialities emerge along age and gender lines

Almost half (46%) of Americans indicate that they agree with the verdict and while almost the same number (45%) indicate that they disagree, with 10% not at all sure. Looking strictly at the most impassioned responses reveals an even tighter parity, with 27% each indicating that they strongly agree and strongly disagree.

However, looking at specific segments reveals more consistent inclinations for or against the verdict, with minority respondents, younger Americans and women more likely to disagree with the verdict:

  • The vast majority of black respondents (89%) and the majority of Hispanic respondents (57%) disagree with the verdict, 76% of black respondents strongly so, while a majority of white respondents agree with the verdict (54%, with 36% disagreeing).
  • 18-34 year olds are more likely to disagree than agree with the verdict, by a 19-point margin (54% disagree, 35% agree), 35-44 year olds are split (45% disagree, 44% agree), and Americans 45 and older are more likely to agree with the verdict by a 12-point margin (45-54 year olds: 51% agree, 39% disagree; 55+ year olds: 52% agree, 40% disagree).
  • Feelings toward the verdict also shift by gender. Men are more likely to agree with the verdict by an 11-point margin (52% agree, 41% disagree), while women are more likely to disagree with the all-female jury's decision by a 9-point margin (49% disagree, 40% agree).

Those who consider themselves more knowledgeable on the trial are slightly more likely to stand in favor of its result, with those describing themselves as knowing a great deal about the trial of George Zimmerman more likely to agree with the verdict, by a 7-point margin (53% agree, 46% disagree).

Trial coverage perceived as excessive, imbalanced

While Americans may be at odds on the trial's outcome, as a whole they show no such split when it comes to the trial's coverage. An overwhelming majority (85%) agree – over half (54%) strongly so – that the trial received excessive news coverage, and roughly three-fourths (74%) agree to perceiving it as inappropriate that the trial has been more broadly covered than recent violence elsewhere in the country.

Additionally, roughly six in ten disagree that, overall, the media has been balanced in their coverage of the events surrounding the case (62%) and that it is appropriate that the trial has received a similar amount of attention as recent allegations of widespread U.S. surveillance programs (59%).

Americans are more divided when looking at public response to the verdict, but only until more impassioned opinions are examined.  Overall, Americans are slightly more likely to agree (52%) than to disagree (48%) that the public response to the verdict has largely been responsible.  However, when looking more specifically at strong opinions on the subject, disagreement outpaces agreement at roughly a 3:1 ratio (41% strongly disagree, 14% strongly agree).

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.


This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between July 16 and 18, 2013 among 2,034 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll® #47, July 23, 2013
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

About Harris Interactive
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