Reserving Judgment on Jackson

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Many Americans are undecided in their opinion of the charges recently leveled against Michael Jackson (search). A plurality says they are unsure if the pop star is guilty or innocent on the child molestation charge; of those with an opinion, more say "guilty" than "not guilty." A plurality also says Jackson should be able keep custody of his own children despite the allegations.

In the latest FOX News national poll, conducted Dec 3-4 by Opinion Dynamics Corporation (search), about a third of Americans (35 percent) say they think Michael Jackson is guilty, 22 percent think he is innocent and 43 percent are not sure. Whites are twice as likely to say Jackson is guilty as innocent (38 percent to 17 percent) and 44 percent are unsure, while blacks are almost four times as likely to say he is innocent (58 percent to 15 percent) and only 26 percent are unsure.

Attorney Gloria Allred (search) has requested that authorities temporarily remove the star’s children from his care in light of the allegations. A 46 percent plurality says Jackson should keep custody of his three children, but 30 percent think child welfare authorities should take the children away. A large majority of blacks favors leaving Jackson’s children in his care (70 percent to 13 percent), as does a smaller plurality of whites (42 percent to 32 percent).

Two-thirds of Americans think the news coverage of the Jackson case has been excessive. A third say "excessive, but still fair," while an equal number say "excessive and unfair." Only 14 percent say the coverage to date has been "fair and responsible."

Polling was conducted by telephone December 3-4, 2003 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points.

1. In November, singer Michael Jackson was arrested and booked on suspicion of molesting a young boy. Based on what you’ve heard so far, do you think Jackson is guilty or not guilty of child molestation?

* small sample

2. Do you think child welfare authorities should take Michael Jackson’s own children away from him because of the child molestation allegations?

* small sample

3. There are many legal cases that are receiving considerable media coverage right now, such as cases involving Michael Jackson, Scott Peterson, and Kobe Bryant. Generally speaking, do you think the amount of in-depth news coverage that is done before a trial begins could violate an individual’s right to a fair trial?

4. How would you rate the news coverage of the Michael Jackson case? Would you say it has been:

* small sample