Who was in the wrong in the Will Smith slap of Chris Rock? Let’s go to the polls

Chris Rock and Will Smith on the Oscars stage
Chris Rock and Will Smith get into it at the 94th Academy Awards.
(Myung Chun/Los Angeles Times)

According to new polling, 3 in 5 Americans disapprove of Will Smith’s slapping of Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards after a poorly received joke about Smith’s wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith. But there are some groups that think Rock was “more wrong” than Smith in the altercation at the Oscars ceremony. And those aren’t the only seemingly contradictory results.

In a survey of 1,319 Americans, YouGov found 61% of respondents considered Will Smith “wrong to hit Chris Rock after his joke” (only 21% said he wasn’t wrong, with 19% not sure — so, it is what it is, Tiffany Haddish).

The widest gaps in the results found that 72% of those 65 and older considered Smith wrong, but only 46% of 18- to 34-year-olds did so (with 27% of that younger group considering Smith in the right).


In fact, 59% of U.S. adults said it is “not ever OK to hit someone for something they said.” Jaden Smith obviously disagrees.

While 39% of respondents “disapprove of the Academy Awards allowing Will Smith to remain at the show after having hit Chris Rock” (to 34% approving), they overwhelmingly believe Smith should not be stripped of the Oscar he won that night (70% to 16%). After all, the likes of Roman Polanski and Harvey Weinstein still have theirs.

Everything we know about the infamous moment at the 2022 Oscars, from the history leading up to the onstage shocker to today’s latest developments.

April 8, 2022

Another survey, this one conducted by Blue Rose with 2,162 online respondents, considered the broader question of “Which side was more wrong?” In that survey, 52.3% considered Rock “more wrong” than Smith. Again, the largest gap was between those 18 to 34 (57.8% saying Rock was more wrong) and 65 and older (51.8% saying Smith was more wrong).

The wording of the question is important: “Last night, there was an incident at the Academy Awards show you may have heard about. The host, comedian Chris Rock [note: Rock was a presenter, not the host], made a comment about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss, joking that she should should be cast in a movie as G.I. Jane. In response, her husband, actor Will Smith, stormed the stage and slapped Rock across the face. Who do you think was more in the wrong?” Thus, the responses were not necessarily about whether Smith’s slap was justified, but directly comparing the provocative actions of the two men.

The results went on to break out certain other details, such as 56.5% of women saying Rock was more wrong, compared to 47.6% of men. With razor-thin margins, 50.1% of Biden voters said Smith was more wrong; 50.8% of Trump voters said Rock was more wrong (along with 53% of non-voters). Those with four-year college degrees (57.6%) and advanced degrees (51.6%) said Smith was more wrong; those with only high school educations (56.6%) and less-than-complete high school educations (59.8%) said Rock was more wrong.

A wide disparity also occurred among income levels, with those earning below $25,000 (63.4%) and $25,000 to $50,000 (56.4%) heavily siding against Rock (“Rock was more wrong”) and those earning $100,000 to $150,000 (51.7%) and above $150,000 (54.2%) faulting Smith more.


And in a bizarre result, a OnePoll survey of 1,003 Americans found 66% “say Smith should be arrested” — but 62% in the same survey still believed “the slap was justified.”