In Depth

What Americans think of Michael Jackson on tenth anniversary of his death

Poll finds that just 21% of US public think the singer was innocent of sexual abuse allegations

This week marks ten years since Michael Jackson collapsed and died, yet his reputation has continued to be dragged through the mud in the decade since his fatal drug overdose, according to a major opinion poll.

Indeed, the YouGov survey suggests that almost twice as many Americans believe the musician was guilty of sexual abuse allegations than think he was innocent. And one in three Americans believe Jackson’s legacy has worsened since his death, on 25 June 2009.

The 50-year-old singer-songwriter died at his California mansion after being given the sedative propofol – normally used before and during surgery, as the BBC notes – by his Dr Conrad Murray, his personal physician.

Murray, who was paid $150,000 (£118,000) a month, said he had been trying to wean Jackson off the drug after giving it to him for 60 days in a row until earlier that week, amid rehearsals for a series of concerts at the O2 arena in London. The doctor said he gave Jackson another dose on the night of his death after the star told him: “I must be ready for the show in England.”

Murray was subsequently found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and served about half of a four-year sentence.

Leaving Neverland

Throughout his life, Jackson had been dogged by allegations of sexual abuse of the children he befriended. His reputation has taken a further hit since the release earlier this year of a four-hour documentary called Leaving Neverland, which contained detailed testimony from two men who say the singer abused them.

Jackson’s family continue to maintain his innocence and his music is still played on the radio in the US and elsewhere. But the film appears to have hit home, judging by the recent YouGov survey.

Of 1,225 US adults quizzed by the polling firm, 39% said they believe Jackson was guilty of the charges, while just 21% think he was innocent and the remainder are unsure.

However, the poll revealed a difference of opinion along racial lines, with 45% of white people believing Jackson committed abuse, compared with 17% of black people. Conversely, 43% of black people believe he is innocent, compared with 15% of white people.

About 40% of both white and black people said they had no opinion on the singer’s guilt or innocence.

What Britons believe 

YouGov carried out a separate opinion poll in the UK in March that suggested more than half of the British public believe Jackson was guilty, although a majority said they would continue to listen to his music. Only 9% of former fans said they could no longer enjoy hearing his songs.

One in four people quizzed had seen at least part of Leaving Neverland. Of those who had viewed the whole documentary, three-quarters said they believed he was guilty of sexual abuse.

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