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Trayvon Martin case: Polls reveal depth of racial divide (+video)

Two polls conducted after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin reaffirm the dramatic divide between white and black Americans, including over whether the trial raised urgent issues.

Madison, Wisc. discussion about Trayvon Martin
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Two polls this week have reaffirmed that white and black Americans see the acquittal of George Zimmerman in very different lights.

The adjectives used to report the racial disparity these polls describe are telling: “dramatic,” “overwhelming,” “drastic.” Those used in comments on those reports, too, evoke a certain mood: “depressing,” “sobering,” “despair-inducing.”

These are only some of the reactions to Monday’s Pew Research Center poll that said 86 percent of black Americans express “dissatisfaction” with the verdict, compared with just 30 percent of whites. At the same time, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found a similar gap: 9 percent of blacks “approved” of the acquittal, compared with 51 percent of whites.

Indeed, the killing of Trayvon Martin and the jury’s not-guilty verdict has agitated deep-seated and long-standing emotions for many Americans, laying bare a sensile cultural rawness when it comes to matters of race. These polls come in the wake of weekend protests and demonstrations, battling memes posted on FaceBook and Twitter, and what some see as clichéd calls for a national “discussion on race.”

Yet some observers say such a stark disparity among the viewpoints of blacks and whites demands “some soul-searching,” as President Obama said in his candid remarks on the case last week.

Efforts by politicians to organize conversations on race have not been particularly productive, Mr. Obama said. “They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.”

Even here there is a wide divide, however. Nearly 80 percent of blacks polled said the Trayvon Martin case raises important issues about race that need to be discussed, Pew reported. But just less than one-third of whites agreed.

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