The polarization properties of light scattered in a lateral direction from turbid media were studied. Polarization modulation and synchronous detection were used to measure, and Mueller calculus to model and derive, the degrees of surviving linear and circular polarization and the optical rotation induced by turbid samples. Polystyrene microspheres were used as scatterers in water solutions containing dissolved chiral, racemic, and achiral molecules. The preservation of circular polarization was found to exceed the linear polarization preservation for all samples examined. The optical rotation induced increased with the chiral molecule concentration only, whereas both linear and circular polarizations increased with an increase in the concentrations of chiral, racemic, and achiral molecules. This latter effect was shown to stem solely from the refractive index matching mechanism induced by the solute molecules, independent of their chiral nature. © 2002 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.