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Gallup Vault: A Case of Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right
Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: A Case of Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

As riots were consuming parts of Los Angeles between April 29 and May 2, 1992, spawned by a racially charged jury verdict, a Gallup/Newsweek poll found Americans condemning both sides of the conflict. The vast majority of U.S. adults believed that the verdict that spawned the outburst -- finding four white police officers not guilty in the beating of a young black man, Rodney King -- was unjustified. But just as many denounced the violence that ensued.

U.S. Public Opinion About the Rodney King Verdict and Riots
  Yes, justified% No, not justified% No opinion%
Do you think the verdict finding the policemen not guilty was justified or not justified? 10 76 13
Do you think the violence [post-verdict in LA's black community] was justified or not justified? 16 79 5
Gallup/Newsweek, April 30-May 1, 1992

King's beating came after he had led police on a high-speed chase to evade a traffic stop, and then, according to the police, was volatile during the arrest. However, the severity of the beating -- caught on videotape for all to see -- convinced the vast majority of whites (73%) as well as blacks (92%) that the not guilty verdict against the police was unjustified.

The decision by a largely white jury to acquit the police officers tapped into the Los Angeles black community's broader frustration about police brutality and the criminal justice system's treatment of blacks. Nevertheless, 75% of blacks joined 79% of whites in calling the violence unjustified. This was a case of racial tension and anger where whites and blacks agreed that two wrongs don't make a right.

A year later, two of the officers charged with beating King were found guilty in federal court of violating his civil rights. And a year after that, LA became embroiled in another case pitting a black man, O.J. Simpson, against the police.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

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