race & politics

Rittenhouse Trial Verdict Divides Americans Along Partisan, Racial Lines

43% of Americans approve of the Wisconsin jury’s not guilty verdict, while 39% disapprove

Emily Chaill, a supporter of Kyle Rittenhouse holding a sign with the words "self defense is not a crime," reacts as the verdict is read while another man moves her away from an opposing crowd in front of the Kenosha County Courthouse on Nov. 19. A new poll shows Americans are divided along partisan and racial lines over the jury's decision to find Rittenhouse not guilty on all charges.(Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Americans are slightly more likely to approve than disapprove of a Wisconsin jury’s decision to find Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of all the charges he faced related to him killing two people and injuring another at a protest against police brutality in Kenosha in August 2020, according to a new Morning Consult survey.

Americans Are Divided on the Rittenhouse Trial Verdict

U.S. adults were asked whether they approve or disapprove of a Wisconsin jury’s decision to find Rittenhouse not guilty of all charges

Poll conducted Nov. 19-21, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of +/-2%. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

The latest numbers

  • Forty-three percent of Americans approve of the jury’s decision to find Rittenhouse not guilty of charges including intentional homicide, attempted intentional homicide and reckless endangerment, while 39 percent disapprove.
  • The public is far more divided over the Rittenhouse verdict than it was over the outcome of the high-profile trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd: In April, 77 percent of Americans backed the jury’s decision to convict Chauvin.
  • Forty-five percent of U.S. adults say the Rittenhouse verdict was fair, while 37 percent think it was unfair.

The context

Support for Rittenhouse’s acquittal is largely driven by whether respondents believe the 18-year-old was in Kenosha to help protect the public, as 32 percent asserted, or to provoke violence, which is the view of 37 percent of Americans. Those views fall largely along partisan lines — with 59 percent of Republicans saying the former and 56 percent of Democrats saying the latter — as well as racial lines, with Black Americans (57 percent) far more likely than white Americans (34 percent) to say Rittenhouse had malicious intent.

In the days since Rittenhouse was cleared by the jury, the proceedings have been cast by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement as another referendum on the criminal justice system, which, they say, allows white men with guns to go free while being harsher on people of color. The survey found that the outcome of Rittenhouse’s trial has dampened confidence in the criminal justice system among people of color.

Rittenhouse Acquittal Takes a Particular Toll on Black Americans’ Confidence in the Criminal Justice System

U.S. adults were asked if the Wisconsin jury’s determination that Kyle Rittenhouse was not guilty of all charges makes them more or less confident in the criminal justice system

Poll conducted Nov. 19-21, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of +/-2%.

What else you should know

  • Half of Black adults (52 percent) said they have less confidence in the criminal justice system following the Rittenhouse verdict, compared with 37 percent of white adults who said the same.
  • The Chauvin verdict in April, by comparison, was more likely to increase trust in the system, with 54 percent of white adults and 52 percent of Black adults expressing more confidence.
  • White Americans, who were more likely than Black adults to agree with the verdict, were also more likely than Black adults to say they were surprised by it (45 percent versus 31 percent).

The survey was conducted Nov. 19-21, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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