Divide greater between races than genders

Updated: December 20, 2003, 4:03 AM ET
Associated Press

EAGLE, Colo. -- More than one-third of those asked in a statewide poll published Friday said they believe NBA star Kobe Bryant probably did not rape a young woman last summer.

Thirty-five percent of respondents to the poll commissioned by the Rocky Mountain News and KCNC-TV of Denver said they believed Bryant is probably innocent, compared with 22 percent who believe he is guilty.

Forty-one percent said they had not decided and 2 percent did not answer the question.

The poll by Public Opinion Strategies of Denver surveyed 400 residents Monday and Tuesday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

There was virtually no difference in responses from men and women: 36 percent of men and 34 percent of women said they believe Bryant is innocent. Twenty percent of men and 24 percent of women said they believe he is guilty.

There was a divide among racial lines, however, with 41 percent of minority respondents and 34 percent of white respondents saying they believe Bryant is probably innocent. Twelve percent of minority respondents said they believed he is guilty, compared with 25 percent of whites.

Bryant, a 25-year-old Los Angeles Lakers guard, faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted of felony sexual assault. He has said he had consensual sex June 30 with the 19-year-old woman at the mountain resort where he stayed after knee surgery in Vail. He is free on $25,000 bond.

Public Opinion Strategies pollster Lori Weigel said she was surprised that men and women responded similarly.

"One might have assumed that women would be more inclined to either hold back an opinion or to side with the alleged victim, and that's certainly not the case here, so far," she said. "It certainly shows that women are not the sympathetic ear that the prosecution might have hoped."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press