race & politics

Americans Broadly Support Murder Convictions in Ahmaud Arbery Case

68% approve of the three guilty verdicts, while 65% see justice for Arbery

Ahmaud Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, is hugged by a supporter on Nov. 24 after the jury convicted three men for the murder of her son in Brunswick, Ga., last year. A new poll shows Americans are overwhelmingly in support of the verdict, with nearly as many seeing it as representing justice for Arbery. (Stephen B. Morton-Pool/Getty Images)

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans approve of a Georgia jury’s decision last week to convict three white men for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, according to a new Morning Consult survey. Nearly as many say the verdict represents justice for the 25-year-old Black man who was accosted and gunned down while jogging through a neighborhood in February 2020.

68% approve of guilty verdicts; 65% see justice for Ahmaud Arbery

The latest numbers

  • Among all U.S. adults, 68 percent approve of the jury’s decision to find Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan guilty of murder, while just 5 percent disapprove.
  • At 65 percent, Americans are almost as likely to see justice for Arbery in the verdict as they are to approve of it — a smaller gap than was measured between the two questions in a Morning Consult survey conducted in April after Derek Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted of murdering George Floyd.
  • Among Black adults, 77 percent approve of the verdict and 74 percent see justice. Both figures are roughly 10 percentage points higher than the share of white Americans who say the same.

The context

The Georgia jury’s verdict has wide public support, helping to explain the nationwide outcry over the local prosecutors’ initial decision not to charge the three men for killing Arbery that was later overturned by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation just days before Floyd’s murder last year. Without the political referendum on policing that encapsulated coverage of the Chauvin trial, or the debate over self-defense and open-carry laws that preceded the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse for killing two people and injuring another at a protest over police brutality in Wisconsin, the trial for Arbery’s murder commanded less attention, and prompted a weaker reaction, from the public.

Republicans and white adults were more likely than Democrats and Black adults to say they were unsure in response to a number of questions about the trial, and at least some of that appears to be driven by exposure. Republicans were less likely than Democrats (19 percent to 41 percent) and white Americans were less likely than Black Americans (27 percent to 47 percent) to report having seen, read or heard “a lot” about the Georgia convictions.

What else you should know

  • Two in 5 Black adults said they were surprised by the Georgia verdict, compared with 29 percent of white adults. The gap between the two figures is similar to divides on the Chauvin conviction in April. Meanwhile, Black Americans earlier this month were less likely to express surprise than white adults at the Rittenhouse verdict.
  • Roughly half of voters (48 percent), including similar shares of white and Black adults, said the Georgia verdict made them more confident in the criminal justice system, mirroring the public’s response to the Chauvin trial.
  • Seven months after the Chauvin trial, Black adults decreasingly say they think race relations in the United States will get better over the next five years, from 28 percent to 16 percent. Instead, they are more likely to say things will stay the same, at 42 percent up from 32 percent.

The survey was conducted Nov. 24-27, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult