Zimmerman protests

Hundreds of people march the streets of downtown Los Angeles protesting the not-guilty verdict of George Zimmerman. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / July 16, 2013)

In the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, a bigger percentage of black Americans think new laws are needed to curb discrimination against blacks, Gallup polls show.

In an August poll, the percentage of blacks who favored such laws had risen to 61%, compared to 53% of blacks surveyed earlier this summer. More blacks also think that the government should take a "major" role in helping improve the social and economic position of blacks: The percentage who said so rose from  to 63% over the summer months from 54%.

The newly released numbers show the reverberating effects of the  Zimmerman case and his ultimate acquittal. Zimmerman, a Florida man who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, became a flashpoint in national discussions of where the country stands on race. Blacks and whites were starkly divided on whether the jury came to the right decision, polls showed.

Even before the Zimmerman verdict, blacks and whites were strikingly split on the larger question of whether government should play a big role in trying to help blacks. Far fewer whites believed that new laws were needed to reduce discrimination, with 17% of whites saying so compared to 53% of blacks, Gallup polls earlier this summer showed.

Latinos held somewhat similar views to blacks on those questions, Gallup found, though they fell squarely in between whites and blacks in their views of how much progress the country had made on civil rights.

Despite the clear effects of the case, the Zimmerman verdict seems to have only slightly dampened views of black progress on the whole: After the decision, a slightly smaller percentage of blacks said that civil rights for blacks had “greatly improved” over their lifetimes, compared to earlier in the summer, but the difference was not statistically significant, Gallup noted.

The August poll included roughly 1,000 black Americans and followed earlier polls in June and July that included more than 4,300 people, including whites, blacks and Latinos, Gallup said in a news release. The new survey, according to Gallup, was done to check whether the Zimmerman verdict had any "sustained impact" on black views of race relations.

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emily.alpert@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesemily