Janet Hook — Wall Street Journal May 3, 2015
Americans are bracing for a summer of racial disturbances around the country, such as those that have wracked Baltimore, with African Americans and whites deeply divided about why the urban violence has occurred, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found.
A resounding 96% of adults surveyed said it was likely there would be additional racial disturbances this summer, a signal that Americans believe Baltimore’s recent problems aren’t a local phenomenon but instead are symptomatic of broader national problems.
When asked to explain recent events in Baltimore and other cities that have seen confrontations between police and members of the African-American community, blacks and whites viewed the situation differently.
Asked to choose between two possible explanations for recent events, 60% of blacks said they reflected “long-standing frustrations about police mistreatment of African Americans.” Some 27% of black respondents said the disturbances were caused by people who used protests over an African American man dying in police custody “as an excused to engage in looting and violence.”
But among whites, the balance of opinion flipped: 58% said people were seizing an excuse to loot, while 32% said the events reflected long-standing frustrations with police.
While most people in the survey predicted further racial disturbances this summer, a smaller share expected them to hit close to home. The poll found that 53% of whites and 46% of African Americans said it was likely there would be a racial disturbance in the metropolitan area nearest to them.
Full results of the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, including public opinion of the 2016 presidential contenders, will be released on Monday evening.
The survey was conducted April 26-30, during which time Freddie Gray, an African American who died in police custody, was buried, and the city saw protests and violence. The polling was completed before Friday’s announcement by the Baltimore state’s attorney that six police officers were being charged in Mr. Gray’s death.
Some 508 adults were asked questions regarding Baltimore and racial disturbances. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 4.35 percentage points for all adults. The margin of error is higher for subgroups.