Father Michael L. Pfleger (right) joins a protest in Chicago Dec. 7, 2014, after recent grand jury decisions in the police-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York City. 
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

While most black adults believe that race played a major factor in the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases, their white counterparts are less inclined to believe so. In fact, a new national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA Today reveals that a majority of white America believes that race was “not a factor at all.”

According to the report, 80 percent of black respondents said that the grand jury was wrong not to charge Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson in the unarmed Brown’s shooting death. A whopping 90 percent said that the New York City grand jury was wrong for not indicting Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s choke hold death in Staten Island, N.Y.


These responses are in marked contrast with those of white adults, 64 percent of whom said that the grand jury in Ferguson made the right decision in refusing to indict Wilson (compared with 23 percent who said it was the wrong decision). However, in Garner’s case, nearly half (47 percent) agreed with black respondents who noted that the grand jury made the wrong decision not to indict; 28 percent said it made the correct decision.

A further breakdown provided in the study shows that black respondents were more likely to believe that race was a “major factor” in the grand juries’ decisions, while white respondents were more likely to think that color did not factor in at all.

In the case of Ferguson, 64 percent of black adults believed that race played a major factor, while only 16 percent of whites believed the same. The majority of whites, at 60 percent, believed that race was “not a factor at all,” while only 9 percent of black respondents echoed those sentiments.


Regarding New York City, once again, 62 percent of blacks believed that race played a major factor, with 18 percent of whites agreeing. However, in Garner’s case the number of whites believing that race was not a factor dropped to 48 percent, although that still represented the largest group of white respondents.

These different responses to Brown’s case and to Garner’s are also reflected within the group of respondents overall, beyond race. Of the 1,507 adults surveyed for the report, exactly half believed that the grand jury made the right decision in failing to indict Wilson, while only 37 percent said the wrong decision was made. In Garner’s case, 57 percent believed that the wrong decision was made, while only 22 percent believed the right decision was made. 

Respondents’ views on the outlook for improved relations between minorities and law enforcement are grim across racial lines, but especially among blacks, the study also notes.


A little more than half (52 percent) of black respondents see relations between police and minorities getting worse. Only about 16 percent see things improving, while 31 percent believe that things will stay the same.

White respondents are not substantially more optimistic, with 43 percent believing that things will stay about the same, although only 34 percent believe that things will get worse. About 21 percent expect improvement. Hispanics are the most optimistic group in this area, with 27 percent saying that things will get better. However, like their white counterparts, the largest group (48 percent) believes that things will stay the same, and 23 percent believe things will get worse.

Read the full survey at Pew Research Center.