One year later: Simpson verdict highlights racial divide
October 3, 1996
(CNN) -- One year after a jury acquitted O.J. Simpson of murder charges, more than half of America's black and white population consider the nation's race relations "bad," according to a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.
Did the Simpson verdict make race relations worse? Sixty percent of the polled whites believed so, as did 48 percent of African-Americans.
The poll also revealed that one of every five whites believe the jury made the right decision, while a large majority of blacks believe the jury made the right decision. But the number of blacks who agree with the verdict has dropped from a year ago.
"African-Americans, in many cases, brought a whole different view of Simpson, American society, and certainly the criminal justice system," said political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchison in explaining the apparent racial divide. (20 sec./438K AIFF or WAV sound)
Sandra Ball-Rokeach, a sociologist at the University of Southern California, said, "A black jury letting a black man go for killing a white woman, who he had abused, represents white loss of control. This, for whites, is very frightening. It's a deep-gut thing." (8 sec./198K AIFF or WAV sound)
The national survey polled 3,409 adult Americans, including 2,806 whites and 312 blacks, from September 25-October 1, 1996. The sampling error is plus or minus six percentage points.
Of those polled, nearly two-thirds of blacks -- 65 percent -- and 51 percent of whites said race relations are bad. But 46 percent of whites said race relations are good overall, compared to 31 percent of blacks.
The number of whites who believe jurors made the right decision has dropped from 42 percent a year ago to 20 percent today. The number of blacks who believe the jury made the right decision is down from 78 percent to 62 percent.
In the days immediately following the verdict, nearly half of the whites polled and 10 percent of blacks said the jury's decision was wrong. Sixty-four percent of whites and 13 percent of blacks currently believe the verdict was wrong.
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