Trayvon Martin and Obama's Poll Numbers

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 25 2013 9:52 AM

Trayvon Martin and Obama's Poll Numbers

The George Zimmerman verdict may have produced controversy, but so far it hasn't produced a bump for the president.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Fox News' new national poll is the only recent survey showing a slight uptick in President Obama's approval numbers. As is Fox's wont, the poll throws in a question about something currently on the minds of news junkies.

After the Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, some people have said the federal government should prosecute him on federal civil rights charges. Others say that would be wrong because it would be the same as trying Zimmerman twice for the same crime. What about you -- do you think the federal government should try to prosecute Zimmerman on federal civil rights charges, or not?

That's just a little loaded, but by a 66-28 margin, respondents say they'd oppose a new trial. This might offer a clue to Obama's slacker support in all the other polls. Look at his numbers among whites. In the Fox poll, he's at 36 percent. In the Pew poll, it's 34 percent.

How much of a slide is that from November 2012? It's marginal. Ah, that's the twist. The president only won 39 percent of the white vote nationally, a number that would have meant sure defeat as recently as 2004. (It's also a bit skewed by the deep South, where Obama won around 20 percent of white votes.) Pundits who looked at Obama's low white support in 2012 and predicted defeat ended up looking like idiots. Then, because we're talking about the pundit industry, they kept getting asked for their opinion anyway—but regardless! Much of the Obama swoon is tied to a slightly sagging level of white support and a sampling of nonwhite voters that's closer to midterm turnout than Obama-on-the-ballot turnout.

Meanwhile: Next week House Democrats will hold a forum on racial justice, coming only days after the Black Caucus' forum on the problems of black men in the justice system.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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