October 2, 1995 in Nation/World

Poll: O.J. Simpson Trial Divides Public Opinion Along Racial Lines Most Whites Think He’s Guilty; Most Blacks Think He’s Innocent

New York Times

A poll taken just at end of the O.J. Simpson trial showed that the year-long proceeding left public opinion as polarized along racial lines as it had been at the outset, not only regarding the specifics of the case but also on issues concerning the criminal justice system.

On survey questions regarding Simpson’s guilt or innocence, black respondents and white respondents offered nearly mirror-image answers.

In a recent CBS News Poll, 64 percent of whites who were questioned said Simpson was probably guilty of the crimes with which he has been charged while 11 percent said he was probably not guilty. Among blacks, 12 percent said he was probably guilty and 59 percent said he was probably not guilty.

The trial has had little effect on the public’s perception of Simpson’s guilt or innocence. In a Gallup Poll taken in July 1994, 62 percent of the adult Americans surveyed said the charges against Simpson were probably true and 21 percent said they were probably not true.

In the recent CBS poll, 57 percent of those surveyed said Simpson was probably guilty and 18 percent said he probably was not.

The nationwide CBS News poll was conducted by telephone with 1,046 adults, including 764 whites and 199 blacks, on Friday and Saturday. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for white participants and 7 percentage points for black participants.

Americans split again along racial lines when asked whether or not Simpson has received a fair trial. Seventy-four percent of whites responding said he had and 13 percent said he had not. Black respondents were more closely divided, with 45 percent saying that the trial had been fair and 40 percent saying it had not.

Blacks in particular had less confidence in the police. In a CBS News Poll conducted last month, 65 percent of whites said they had a great deal or a lot of confidence in their local police. But only 37 percent of blacks said they had such high levels of confidence in their local police.

In last month’s poll, wariness of the police ran even deeper among the nation’s blacks. Fifty-five percent of whites said they think of the police as friends while only 30 percent of blacks said the same.

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