NEW YORK – The Michael Jackson (search) trial may have just gotten underway, but a FOX News poll finds that a majority of the public has already made up their mind. A small 51 percent majority of Americans think Jackson is guilty of the child molestation charges, 11 percent say not guilty and a sizeable minority — 38 percent — is unsure.
Blacks are more than four times as likely as whites to think Jackson is innocent (34 percent and 7 percent respectively). More than half of whites (55 percent) think the singer is guilty, while the same is true of one quarter of blacks (26 percent). Across all races about 4 in 10 are not sure.
Being a parent does not influence views on the Jackson case — about half of parents and non-parents alike say they think he’s guilty.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on March 1-2.
Regardless of Jackson’s guilt or innocence, the poll asked people whether they thought he would, in fact, be convicted. By a two-to-one margin Americans think the pop star will not be convicted (25 percent convicted and 50 percent not convicted).
"Over half — 57 percent — of those who think Jackson is guilty do not believe he will be convicted. In addition, only 30 percent of those who think he is guilty also think he will be convicted. This may demonstrate a lack of faith in the judicial system in prosecuting celebrity cases like this," comments Opinion Dynamics Corporation Vice-President Lawrence Shiman.
A 63 percent majority of the public thinks Jackson will receive a fair trial, including 65 percent of whites and 51 percent of blacks.
Martha Stewart (search) has a higher favorable rating today — after five months in prison — than she did this time a year ago. Stewart was released from prison this week after serving a sentence for lying about a stock sale.
Overall, 46 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Stewart now, up from 34 percent in March 2004. There is a gender gap in views on Martha, with women 9-percentage points more likely than men to have a favorable opinion of her. Married women are among those that give Stewart her highest ratings: 54 percent of married women have a favorable opinion compared to 44 percent of unmarried women.
In addition, people over the age of 45 are more likely to have a favorable view of Martha Stewart than those under age 45.
Stewart’s favorable rating bests that of fellow entrepreneur Donald Trump (search). Views of "the Donald" are about evenly divided: 39 percent have a favorable opinion of him, 37 percent unfavorable and 24 percent were unable to give an opinion either way. Trump receives some of his highest ratings from young people (55 percent), non-whites (53 percent), liberals (48 percent) and those living in the Northeast (47 percent). In other words, while Trump’s popularity lies mostly with people under the age of 45, Stewart is most popular with those over age 45.
More today believe Stewart’s punishment was fair than did at the time of her trial. A 43 percent plurality believes her sentence was fair, up from 36 percent in July 2004. About equal numbers of people think Stewart’s sentence of five months in prison and a five-month house arrest was "too light" (24 percent) and "too tough" (25 percent). The poll was conducted in the week prior to Stewart’s release.
Finally, with baseball season right around the corner and in the wake of news stories about steroid use by the players, the poll asked Americans how they generally feel about professional athletes as role models. While about 4 in 10 think most athletes are good role models for children today, a 58 percent majority disagrees.
Counter to what might be expected, parents are slightly more likely than non-parents (42 percent and 37 percent respectively) to think professional athletes are being good role models.
Even though a minority of the public believes professional athletes are good role models today, an overwhelming majority (88 percent) believes they have a responsibility to do so.
• Pdf: Click here for full poll results.