Public Opinion on the Trayvon Martin Shooting

Key Findings

The last few days have moved public opinion significantly in favor of George Zimmerman.

  • In CNN’s poll conducted last weekend, 73% of American adults thought that Zimmerman should be arrested.
  • Just a few days later, our poll conducted Tuesday and Wednesday revealed that just 48% of Americans believe he should be arrested. Our poll matched the partisan distribution of the CNN poll, so this is a real and significant change in opinion as more key details came out over a few brief days.

The initial media coverage of this incident clearly biased the way Americans view the issue. Those who have seen the most information about the incident have the most antagonistic attitudes toward George Zimmerman. 

  • Nearly three-in-five (59%) of those who say they have seen “a great deal” about the story believe that Zimmerman should be arrested. This is compared to 48% overall who believe he should be arrested.
  • Those who haven’t been exposed to as much coverage are much less likely to blame Zimmerman—only 38% of those who have heard less about the incident feel that he should be arrested.

The critical driver of opinion is more information about Trayvon Martin.

  • A majority of Americans (52%) who learn about Martin’s suspension from school and issues with marijuana say that it changes their opinion of the case.


Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research conducted a nationwide research study of adults.  Respondents were screened to ensure that they were neither a member of the news media or a public relations company.  The sample for this survey was weighted match the US population on age, gender, geography, and ethnicity

Respondents were contacted by phone via a live telephone operator interview March 27th – 28th 2012.  The study has a sample size of 811 adults with a margin of error of ±3.4%.