Fall 2014 Articles, Flash Polls, Media Coverage, Politics, Race, Social Issues

Events in Ferguson, Missouri, Show Sharp Racial Divides

This week (August 25th-26th), PackPoll fielded a survey about police relations. The questions we asked were prompted by the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. On August 9th, Michael Brown, an unarmed young black male was shot and killed, setting off weeks of protests and widespread media attention to the issues of race and police force. A complete timeline of the events is available here.

As a whole, State students are aware of the events in Ferguson, and report that they are following the situation. 79% of State students report that they are following the events at least “a little,” with 44% reporting that they are following the story “fairly closely,” or “very closely.” We find that students’ race is the predictor of opinions about Ferguson. Black students, for example, are more likely to be following news about Ferguson than white students. While 21% of black respondents said they were following the events “very closely,” and another 49% “fairly closely,” only 9% of white students are following Ferguson “very closely,” and 35% are following it “fairly closely.”

Students were asked whether Ferguson raised important questions about race, or if too much was being made of race in this instance. Nearly all black students (88%) agreed that Ferguson raised important issues about race, but just 43% of white felt the same way.

We also used a split-ballot technique to gauge reactions about both the police and protestor’s responses. Half of respondents were asked if the police were going to far, while the other half were asked if the protesters were going too far. Fully 91% of black students felt that the police response has been too extreme, but white students were much divided. A slim majority of whites, 60%, also felt that the police have gone too far. For the protestors a similar effect by race emerged. Just 42% of white students believed that the protestors were just exercising their rights, but 74% of black students held that same belief.

One area of agreement was about personal experiences with police. We asked students to report whether or not they felt they had been treated fairly overall. A vast majority reported that they had been treated fairly. 86% of all NCSU students polled reported that they believed the police had treated them fairly. However, race again played a role. While 87% of white students reported being treated fairly, a smaller percentage of black students (78%) reported the same feeling.

A final question asked if the police treated different racial groups differently. Although neither demographic group reported that police were generally tougher on whites than blacks, there was a racial divide about whether blacks were treated more toughly or both blacks and whites were treated equally. Fully 91% of black students felt that police were generally tougher on blacks than whites, while just 45% of white students agreed.

Our findings build on a relatively small set of polling already conducted on the topic. Pew Research has conducted surveys on the events in Ferguson, and the reactions from it. Also, YouGov, an online panel has polled on the topic. Both polls found stark racial divides on both the events in Ferguson themselves, as well as the question that the events and the protest have raised. Our research confirms these findings, and illustrates that State students are sharply divided on how they view Ferguson and some of the questions that the event has raised.

NOTE ON METHODOLOGY: This survey included an oversample of black students. This means that we contacted more black students than a random draw would have resulted in occurring. We included the oversample to get a more reliable estimate of what black students thought about Ferguson. As a result, whenever we discuss what state students overall think about Ferguson, we weighted the data to accurately reflect NCSU’s demographics, which changes the findings since black and white students disagree about Ferguson. Information on NCSU demographics can be found here.

Click on the link below to download a PDF of the results from the our recent flash poll, and the SPSS file for the data. Feel free to email us if you have any questions.


  Ferguson Flash Poll (Topline Report and Data)


  1. How can you survey a group of people on experiences they literally can’t have?

  2. Hi,

    I’m not sure what you are asking? Are you saying students can’t have experiences with police officers?


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