Eric Garner poll: The jury got it wrong
Following the message of protests across the country, New Jersey residents are overwhelmingly displeased with the recent grand jury decision to decline an indictment against a white New York City police officer in the choking death of a black man.
In a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released Thursday, 59 percent of New Jerseyans said a non-indictment was the wrong move. Just 26 percent agreed with the decision in the case of Eric Garner, who was restrained in a chokehold by NYC police officer Daniel Pantaleo for selling untaxed cigarettes.
The encounter was caught on tape and rapidly captured the attention of social media and the American public.
The grand jury cited "no reasonable cause" for an indictment against Pantaleo.
In the same poll, Garden Staters were more supportive of the non-indictment out of Ferguson, Missouri, where unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot down by police officer Darren Wilson.
Forty-five percent of respondents agreed with the grand jury decision; 39 percent disapproved.
"The differing perspectives on the two cases may reflect greater uncertainty about the facts in Ferguson," said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. "Those facts are contended, including the question of whether the police officer felt threatened for his life. There is less disagreement about what happened in New York."
The poll presented massive racial divides in both cases. More than 60 percent of white New Jersey residents agreed with the non-indictment in Ferguson, compared to 20 percent of nonwhite residents. Closer to home, more than 75 percent of non-whites said the grand jury should have indicted Pantaleo. Forty-six percent of white residents felt the same way.
"While the small sample size does not allow us to look at variation among nonwhites in any detail, we do know that virtually none of the black respondents in the poll support either grand jury decision," Redlawsk said.