WASHINGTON – In the hours after a guilty verdict was announced in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos snap poll found Americans overwhelmingly approved of the jury’s finding.
The survey found 71% of Americans agreed Chauvin was guilty, and most Americans surveyed followed at least some coverage of the three-week trial. When participants were identified by political affiliation, Democrats strongly concurred, at 85%, with Republicans at 55% and independents at 71%.
Sixty-two percent of those polled said they would accept the verdict and do nothing further like march or protest; 61% of Democrats and Republicans alike answered that way. About 16% said they would join rallies or protests in accepting the verdict, while a total of 12% said they rejected the verdict.
In describing this new Ipsos/USA Today poll, Ipsos’s Cliff Young said, “we find a rare moment of bipartisan consensus that George Floyd’s killing was a crime and consequences are justified.”
Ipsos surveyed 1,000 American adults online from all states.
Chauvin, who is 45 and white, was found guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man. Chauvin was seen on video pinning Floyd to the ground with his knee last Memorial Day for more than nine minutes after police responded to a report that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill.
A viral video of the incident, along with the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, in March, sparked international protests for racial justice and police reform. Tuesday’s verdicts marked a moment of catharsis for a country wracked by division.
Chauvin faces 12½ years or 150 months in prison under sentencing guidelines for a first-time offender. But the prosecution argued there are aggravating factors that require a longer prison term. That means Chauvin could face a longer sentence. He returns to court for sentencing in eight weeks.
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Sharper differences around law and order
While most agreed with the verdict’s outcome, the snap poll found differences in public views on the importance of law and order, perhaps further noting partisan differences that have become cemented in the past year.
The poll found just over half of respondents – 54% – said they believed “law and order is the most important thing to ensure, even if it means limiting peaceful protests.” That answer soared to 73% among Republicans and ticked down to 43% among Democrats. Independents were at exactly half. On the flip side, 38% said the right to protest is paramount, even if violent incidents result, with 53% of Democrats, 36% of independents and 22% of Republicans agreeing.
The killings by law enforcement of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others brought loud calls for change to policing strategies, including a push by some to dismantle law enforcement entirely.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement immediately after the verdict that the decisions represented a new era of police accountability to end the “recurring and enduring deaths at the hands of law enforcement.”
Hours later, President Joe Biden called for a “moment of significant change” to fight systemic racism in policing, noting the verdict itself was “not enough.”
“It can’t stop here. In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again,” he said from the White House.
He also pushed for the Senate’s passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act – named in Floyd’s honor – that seeks to bolster police accountability and prevent problem officers from moving from one department to another. The bill, which cleared the House in March, also would end certain police practices that have been under scrutiny.
Different views on circumstances in Floyd’s death
Though more than three-quarters of participants said Chauvin was guilty of murdering Floyd, respondents’ opinions were mixed on what exactly happened.
Of those surveyed, 40% overall said they believed Floyd’s death was murder – with 26% of Republicans and 51% of Democrats agreeing – while 32% overall viewed the circumstances around his death as negligence on the part of Chauvin. Few – 11% – said they believed Chauvin’s actions were an accident and 5% said he did nothing wrong.
News of the livestreamed trial penetrated Americans’ lives, according to the Ispos poll. As many as 40% of Americans have consumed “a lot” of media about the Chauvin trial, 27% of respondents said they had watched “some” content related to the trial, and 21% said they had seen “a little.” Only 9% of respondents said they had seen nothing about the trial at all.
Of those saying they had seen either much or some of the trial, 76% were Democrats, 62% were Republicans and 61% were independents.
The Ipsos poll was conducted 5-8 p.m. on April 20 for USA TODAY. It has a confidence interval of 3.2 percentage points. Among those surveyed, 262 described themselves as Republicans, 422 as Democrats and 316 as independents.
Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.
Source: USA Today – Breaking News