Blacks are more likely than whites to view poverty as a major factor in the outbreak of protests and violence in Baltimore following the death last month of Freddie Gray, a survey by the Pew Research Center indicated Monday. In the national poll of 1,000 adults, 50 percent of blacks said poverty and a lack of opportunity in neighborhoods contributed a “great deal” to unrest, compared with 39 percent of whites.
A majority of all respondents -- 61 percent -- said “some people taking advantage of the situation to engage in criminal behavior” played a primary role in causing the unrest, although whites were more likely to say so (66 percent) than blacks (54 percent). More than half of survey participants -- 56 percent -- said tensions between the black community and police also factored in “a great deal.”
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby filed charges Friday against six police officers involved in Gray’s death. The 25-year-old was arrested in mid-April after making eye contact with police officers and then running away. Mosby said Gray was arrested illegally, and he died after suffering a “severe and critical neck injury” while riding shackled and without a seatbelt in a police van.
Most Pew survey respondents -- 65 percent overall -- agreed with Mosby’s decision to prosecute the officers, one of whom faces a second-degree murder charge. Gene Ryan, the head of Baltimore's police union, has said none of the officers involved in Gray's arrest was responsible for his death.
Broken down by race, “nearly eight-in-10 blacks (78 percent) and 60 percent of whites say the decision to bring charges was right,” the survey said. Pew noted a sharper difference of opinion along partisan lines. Only 45 percent of Republicans said bringing charges against the police officers was the right call, compared with 75 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents.
The survey was conducted Thursday to Sunday and had a 3.6 percent margin of error. Confidence level was pegged at 95 percent.