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Young adults view the criminal justice system very differently after Ferguson

A majority of Americans no longer believe the criminal justice system treats people of all races equally, according to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute. As news director Jared Keller pointed out in a tweet, the change from 2013 and 2014 shows the possible policy implications of the August 9 shooting of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which led to weeks of tense protests and national media attention in the St. Louis suburb. The shift could also have been influenced by the death of Eric Garner at the hands of a New York City Police officer in July.

criminal justice race poll Ferguson

The poll's findings apply across the board. While young adults saw the most dramatic shift toward acknowledging racial disparities in the criminal justice system, everyone else — seniors and Republicans included — saw a significant change as well. Notably, a majority (51 percent) of white Americans now appear to agree that there are some racial disparities in the criminal justice system, up from 42 percent just one year ago.

It's possible that this is a temporary blip, especially since the survey was conducted a month after the events in Ferguson. But since some studies suggest it's difficult to get white Americans to see and care about racial disparities in the criminal justice system, the survey could indicate the beginnings of a big change in public perspectives.

To learn more about the racial disparities in the criminal justice system and events in Ferguson, read Vox's Ferguson explainer and watch the two-minute video below:

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