We describe the use of degree of polarization to discriminate unscattered and weakly scattered light from multiply scattered light in an optically turbid material. We use spatially resolved measurements of the degree of polarization to compare how well linearly and circularly polarized light survives in a sample. Experiments were performed on common tissue phantoms consisting of polystyrene and Intralipid microsphere suspensions and on adipose and arterial tissue. The results indicate that polarization is maintained even after unpolarized irradiance through each sample has been extinguished by several orders of magnitude. The results also show that polarized light propagation in common tissue phantoms is distinctly different from polarized light propagation in the two tissues investigated. Further, these experiments illustrate when polarization is an effective discrimination criterion and when it is not. The potential of a polarization-based discrimination scheme to image through the biological and nonbiological samples investigated here is also discussed.