Exclusive: Americans overwhelmingly approve of Chauvin guilty verdict, USA TODAY/Ipsos snap poll finds

WASHINGTON — In the hours after a guilty verdict was announced in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos snap poll found Americans overwhelmingly approved of the jury’s finding.

The survey, conducted just hours after the judge announced the verdict, found 71% of Americans agreed Chauvin was guilty, and most Americans surveyed followed at least some coverage of the three-week trial. Further, 62% of those polled said they would accept the verdict and do nothing further like march or protest; 61% of both Democrats and Republicans answered that way. About 16% said they would join rallies or protests in accepting the verdict, while a total of 12% said they rejected the verdict.

Ipsos described the results as showing “a rare moment when majorities of both Democrats and Republicans believe the outcome is correct.” Ipsos surveyed online 1,000 American adults from all states.

Chauvin, who is 45 and white, was found guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man. Chauvin was seen on video pinning Floyd to the ground with his knee last Memorial Day for over nine minutes after police responded to a report that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill.

A viral video of the incident, along with the March killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, sparked international protests for racial justice and police reform. Tuesday’s verdicts marked a moment of catharsis for a country wracked by division.

Chauvin faces 12 1/2 years or 150 months in prison under sentencing guidelines for a first-time offender. But, the prosecution argued there are aggravating factors that require a longer prison term. That means Chauvin may face a longer sentence. He returns to court for sentencing in eight weeks.

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Sharper differences around law and order

While most agreed with the verdict’s outcome, the snap poll found differences in public views on the importance of law and order, perhaps further noting partisan differences that have become cemented in the last year.

The poll found just over half of respondents – 54% — said they believed “law and order is the most important thing to ensure, even if it means limiting peaceful protests.” That answer soared to 73% among Republicans and ticked down to 43% among Democrats. Independents were at exactly half. On the flip side, 38% said the right to protest is paramount, even if violent incidents result, with 53% of Democrats, 36% of independents and 22% of Republicans agreeing.

The killings by law enforcement of Floyd, Taylor and others brought loud calls for change to policing strategies, including a push by some to dismantle law enforcement entirely.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison in a statement immediately after the verdict said the decisions represented a new era of police accountability to end the “recurring and enduring deaths at the hands of law enforcement.”

Hours later, President Joe Biden called for a “moment of significant change” to fight systemic racism in policing, noting the verdict itself was “not enough.”

“It can’t stop here. In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again,” he said from the White House.

He also pushed for the Senate’s passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act – named in Floyd’s honor – that seeks to bolster police accountability and prevent problem officers from moving from one department to another. The bill, which cleared the House in March, would also end certain police practices that have been under scrutiny.

People react after the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial on April 20, 2021 In Minneapolis.

Different views on circumstances in Floyd’s death

While a vast majority said Chauvin was guilty of murdering Floyd, respondents’ opinions were mixed on what exactly happened.

Of those surveyed, 40% overall said they believed Floyd’s death was murder — with 26% of Republicans and 51% of Democrats agreeing — while 32% overall viewed the circumstances around his death as negligence on the part of Chauvin. Few — 11% — said they believed Chauvin’s actions were an accident and 5% said he did nothing wrong.

News of the live-streamed trial penetrated Americans’ lives, according to the Ispos poll. As many as 40% of Americans have consumed “a lot” of media about the Chauvin trial, 27% of respondents said they’d watched “some” content related to the trial and 21% said they’d seen “a little.” Only 9% of respondents said they’d seen nothing about the trial at all.

Of those saying they’d seen either much or some of the trial, 76% are Democrats, 62% are Republicans and 61% were independents.

The Ipsos poll was conducted from 5-8 p.m. on April 20 for USA TODAY. It has a confidence interval of 3.2 percentage points. Among those surveyed, 262 described themselves as Republicans, 422 as Democrats and 316 as independents.

Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.

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