Poll finds sharp racial, political divide over Ferguson shooting

A new poll finds the public sharply divided along racial and political lines amid violence in Ferguson, Mo., sparked by the police killing of an unarmed black teenager.

An overwhelming majority of black people, 80 percent, believe the case raises important questions about race, and another 18 percent believe race is getting too much attention, according to a Pew Research poll released Monday.

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A plurality of whites, though, at 47 percent believe race is getting too much attention, but 37 percent think the case raises important questions. Another 16 percent of whites are undecided. 

The poll also finds a similar split between Democrats and Republicans. Although 68 percent of Democrats believe the shooting raises important questions about race, only 22 percent of Republicans feel the same way. Forty percent of independents think the case raises important racial questions. 

The shooting and killing of Michael Brown, an 18-year old black teenager, by white officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9 has led to days of protests and violence and sparked a public debate over race and police tactics.

Critics have pointed to the lack of racial diversity in the police force in Ferguson and accused officers of using excessive force against Brown and to quell protests in the wake of his death.

Though the suburb is predominantly black, only three officers on the force are black. 

There are conflicting accounts of the circumstances surrounding the shooting and the Justice Department has launched a civil rights investigation and requested a federal autopsy.

Gov. Jay Nixon (D) brought in the state Highway Patrol to lead security last week and called in the National Guard on Monday morning after continued violence. A midnight curfew would be lifted Monday night, according to reports.

The poll also finds that blacks have little confidence in the investigations into the shooting.

Seventy-six percent of blacks say they are not confident in the investigations, with 18 percent expressing confidence in the probes.

Fifty-two percent of whites, though, have confidence, with 33 percent saying they have little or none.

The FBI and St. Louis County are running parallel investigations. 

Similarly, 65 percent of blacks think the police response to protests after the shooting has gone too far. Whites are divided, with 33 percent saying police action was excessive. Thirty-two percent say it has been about right, and 35 percent do not know. 

The poll surveyed 1,000 people from Aug. 14 to 17 and has a 3.6 percent margin of error overall. The margin of error among black respondents is 11 percent because of the smaller sample size.

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