Media On Trial: Was Rittenhouse Coverage Fair?

Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty of homicide charges last week in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and nearly half of voters believe media coverage of the trial was unfair to the teenager.

A new national telephone and online survey by Rasmussen Reports and Human Events finds that 47% of Likely U.S. voters believe media coverage of the Rittenhouse trial was unfair, including 28% who say the coverage was Not At All Fair. Thirty-six percent (36%) think coverage of the Kenosha trial was fair, including 14% who say it was Very Fair. Eighteen percent (18%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Rittenhouse was found not guilty of all charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, after arguing that he fired in self-defense during an August 2020 riot in Kenosha. Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters believe media coverage of the case was prejudiced against Rittenhouse, while 15% think coverage was prejudiced in Rittenhouse’s favor. Twenty-three percent (23%) say media coverage of the trial was neutral toward Rittenhouse.

Politics clearly influences opinions about the fairness of media coverage. A majority (54%) of Democrats believe media coverage of the Rittenhouse trial was fair, but that belief is shared by only 27% of Republicans and 25% of voters not affiliated with either major party. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Republicans and 54% of unaffiliated voters think media coverage of the case was unfair, as do 27% of Democrats.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it’s in the news, it’s in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The survey of 1,000 U.S. Likely Voters was conducted on November 18 and 21, 2021 by Rasmussen Reports and Human Events. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

The political divide over the trial of Rittenhouse – who was branded a “white supremacist” by then-candidate Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential campaign – is even more stark in terms of whether media coverage was biased for or against the teenager. Majorities of both Republicans (69%) and unaffiliated voters (51%) believe coverage was prejudiced against Rittenhouse, but just 22% of Democrats share that view. Most Democrats believe the media’s trial coverage was either neutral toward Rittenhouse (36%) or prejudiced in favor of the defendant (24%).

Seventy-six percent (76%) of voters say they closely followed news reports about the trial in Kenosha, including 36% who followed the news Very Closely. Twenty-three percent (23%) didn’t closely follow news of the Rittenhouse trial. Republicans (41%) were more likely than Democrats (36%) or unaffiliated voters (39%) to say they followed news of the trial Very Closely.

Among voters who followed news of the Kenosha trial Very Closely, 56% believed media coverage was prejudiced against Rittenhouse.

Older voters were significantly more likely than those under 40 to believe media coverage was prejudiced against Rittenhouse.

More government workers than private sector employees believed media coverage of the trial was fair.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of whites, 33% of black voters and 50% of other minorities believed media coverage was prejudiced against Rittenhouse.

President Biden’s strongest supporters were most likely to think the media covered the Rittenhouse trial fairly. Among voters who Strongly Approve of Biden’s job performance as president, 69% believe media coverage of the trial was fair. By contrast, among voters who Strongly Disapprove of Biden’s performance, 77% think media coverage was unfair.

After the Rittenhouse began, voters were largely divided along party lines about whether the teenage gunman should be convicted.

Violent crime is a bigger concern than inflation for most voters, and President Biden gets worse ratings for dealing with crime than he does for how he’s handling the economy.

(Source)

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