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American Public Doubtful JonBenet Ramsey Case Will Ever Be Solved

American Public Doubtful JonBenet Ramsey Case Will Ever Be Solved

by Mark Gillespie


PRINCETON, NJ -- The December 1996 murder of six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey haunts Americans to this day, more than three years after the child beauty queen was found strangled to death in her family's Boulder, Colorado home. No arrests have been made in the case, and a Colorado grand jury declined to indict anyone in connection with the case after months of testimony.

Will the case ever be solved? A new Gallup poll conducted the weekend of March 17-19 finds two out of three Americans (66%) believe the case will never be closed. This represents a slight increase in pessimism as time has passed -- two Gallup polls, conducted in November and December of 1997, found that about 57% of those polled believed the case would never be solved.

The Ramsey case, with its lurid tabloid headlines, has become a cause of fascination for many Americans. Fifty-eight percent of Americans told Gallup interviewers they still follow the case closely, down just slightly from a 61% finding in the November 1997 Gallup poll. Women are more likely than men to be following the case, 62% to 53%, and despite the fact that the murder took place in Colorado, 63% of those living in the East are closely following it -- slightly higher than in other regions of the country. By comparison, 57% of those in the Midwest are closely following the case, 56% in the West, and 52% in the South.

Ramseys Get Mixed Level of Sympathy From American Public
From the beginning, John and Patsy Ramsey have been considered suspects in the murder, by both police and the news media. Despite the fact that a grand jury refused to indict them last year, prosecutors still say the parents remain "under an umbrella of suspicion" -- a cloud that led them to write a book published last week, "The Death of Innocence," and to give extensive interviews to ABC and NBC.

Perhaps because of the intense public interest in this case, 14% of Americans told Gallup interviewers they would be interested in reading the Ramsey book. This might seem like a small number, but it is nearly double the percentage of those who indicated an interest in Monica Lewinsky's book about the Clinton impeachment scandal when it was about to be published a year ago. Again, women are more interested in the book than are men, by a 20% to 8% ratio.

One purpose of the recent spate of televised interviews given by the Ramseys was no doubt to increase public sympathy for their situation and for them as people. At this point, the poll shows that the American public is split almost down the middle in terms of its sympathy for the Ramseys. Forty-four percent of those polled consider themselves "very or somewhat sympathetic" to the parents, compared to 46% who say they are "very or somewhat unsympathetic." In this case, there is little difference by gender, though women appear to be slightly more unsympathetic than men.

Parents Still Considered Suspects by Many
John and Patsy Ramsey have proclaimed their innocence in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, and no charges have ever been filed in the case. That does not, however, free them from suspicion in the minds of about one-fifth of Americans. One-third of those polled have an opinion about who committed the murder, and among that group, the Ramseys lead the list of potential suspects. Thirty percent of those who have an opinion about the murder say both parents were responsible, while 17% blame Patsy Ramsey and 11% blame John Ramsey, separately (the sum of these three groups is about one-fifth of the total population). The Ramseys maintain an intruder or a total stranger was responsible, but only 5% of those who express an opinion about the possible suspects agree with that possibility. Another third of those who have an opinion about the murder say that someone else did it -- including "a total stranger," or a "disgruntled employee."

Thus, in summary, the latest survey finds that about 19% of all Americans think that one or both of the parents committed the murder. The vast majority of the rest have no opinion. This is little changed from November, 1997, when roughly the same number -- 23% -- of all Americans both had an opinion about the murder, and said that one or both of the parents were guilty.

Survey Methods
The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,024 adults, 18 years and older, conducted March 17-19, 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

How closely have you followed the news about the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, the child beauty queen from Boulder, Colorado -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

  Very closely Somewhat closely Not too closely Not at all No opinion
2000 Mar 17-19 12% 46 30 12 *
1997 Nov 6-9 16% 45 27 10 1

Do you think the case involving the murder of JonBenet Ramsey will ever be solved, or not?

  Yes No No opinion
2000 Mar 17-19 24% 66 10
1997 Dec 18-21 31% 58 11
1997 Nov 6-9 32% 56 12

Just your opinion, who do you think killed JonBenet Ramsey?


  Mar 17-19, 2000 Nov 6-9,1997
Mother 17% 17%
Father 11 19
Both parents 30 35
Brother 9 3
Disgruntled employee 1 *
Total stranger 5 1
One of the parents -- 2
Family member -- 12
Acquaintance -- 3
Other 19 2
No opinion 8 6
  100% 100%

Based on what you know and have seen in the news, how do you feel toward John and Patsy Ramsey, the parents of JonBenet Ramsey: very sympathetic, somewhat sympathetic, somewhat unsympathetic, or very unsympathetic?

  Very sympathetic Somewhat sympathetic Somewhat unsympathetic Very unsympathetic No opinion
2000 Mar 17-19 10% 34 25 21 10

* Less than 0.5%

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