Poll: 54% of Americans support "Stand Your Ground" laws
Date published: April 3, 2012
The controversial "Stand Your Ground" law has been the focus of ongoing nationwide media attention following the fatal shooting of unarmed 17-year old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Based off current voting totals, 94% of Political.com poll responders have been following this case. A "stand-your-ground" law states that a person may use deadly force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat, without an obligation to retreat first. In some cases, a person may use deadly force in public areas without a duty to retreat.
Under these legal concepts, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations and the "stand your ground" law would be a defense or immunity to criminal charges and civil suit. The difference between immunity and a defense is that an immunity bars suit, charges, detention and arrest. A defense permits a plaintiff or the state to seek civil damages or a criminal conviction, as in the case of the family of Trayvon Martin. A slight majority of 51.9% of poll voters also believe race may have played a role in Travyvon Martin's shooting, as the victim is African-American and his shooter is white. However, 36.7% of voters don't believe race was an issue.
More than half of all U.S. states have adopted the similar "Castle doctrine", which states that a person has no duty to retreat when their home is attacked. Some states go a step further, removing the duty of retreat from any location. Up to 54.5% of poll voters support "stand your ground" laws, while 38.8% area against the legalized use of lethal force in self-defense.
Finally, 35.4% of poll respondents believe that George Zimmerman, the shooter in the Trayvon Martin case, should be charged with murder; 28.9% believe manslaughter charges should be brought against him, while a sizeable 35.7% believe he should not be charged at all.
This poll was conducted online among 1,572 adults nationwide. After the poll was completed, the data was processed through a weighting program to insure that the sample reflects the overall population in terms of age, race, gender, political party, and other factors. The processing step is standard among polling agencies and is necessary because different segments of the population may answer more than others.