skip to main content
Gallup Vault
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.

Read more from the Gallup Vault.

Subscribe to receive weekly Gallup News alerts.
Never miss our latest insights.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030