Americans Find Trump’s Rhetoric Racist, But He Doesn’t Care
Even a Fox News poll finds that the American public finds the President's recent rhetoric to be racist. There's a different picture when you look at his supporters, though.
A new poll from Fox News Channel of all places finds that a large number of Americans believe that President Trump’s attacks on the so-called “squad” are racist:
A majority of voters said in a new poll that telling people of color to “go back” to their countries is racist following President Trump’s comments targeting four minority congresswomen.
The Fox News poll released Wednesday found that 56 percent of respondents believe telling people of color to “go back” is racist, while 23 percent said it is not and 18 percent said it depends.
A majority, 63 percent, also said that Trump’s tweets about the progressive congresswomen crossed the line, while 27 percent found them to be an acceptable political attack. A significant number of Republicans, 33 percent, joined 88 percent of Democrats in saying the tweets crossed the line.
Most voters disapprove of how the president handles race relations, with 32 percent approving and 57 percent disapproving. The 25-point gap is only slightly higher than the 22-point gap on the issue in an October poll.
Fifty-seven percent, including 73 percent of nonwhite respondents, also said they do not believe Trump respects racial minorities
Looking deeper into the poll numbers, we find some interesting results.
For example, on the question of whether or not the President’s tweets about “the squad,” specifically those where he told these women to go back where they came from were acceptable or whether they crossed the line:
- Overall, 63% of respondents say that the President crossed the line, while 27% thought what he said was acceptable;
- Among Democrats, 88% thought the attacks crossed the line, while 8% thought they were acceptable;
- Among Republicans, 53% thought the attacks were acceptable while 33% thought they crossed the line;
- Among Republican men, 59% thought the attacks were acceptable, while 48% of Republican women felt the same way;
- Among Independents, 68% thought the attacks crossed the line, while 15% thought they were acceptable.
On the question of whether or not the President respects racial minorities:
- Overall, 57% say that he does not respect racial minorities, while 34% believe that he does;
- Among Democrats, 88% said that the President does not respect racial minorities while 8% believe that he does;
- Among Republicans, 68% said they believe the President respects racial minorities while 20% believe he does not;
- Among Republican men, 72% said they believe the President respects minorities while 63% of Republican women felt the same way;
- Among Independents, 62% said they do not believe the President respects minorities while 25% believe that he does;
On the question of whether or not the “go back” tweets were racist:
- Overall, 56% say that they are racist while 34% said they were not;
- Among Democrats, 85% said that the comments were racist while just 6% said they were not;
- Among Republicans, 45% said that the comments were not racist while 21% said that they were;
- Among Republican men, 47% said that the comments were not racist while 42% said they were not;
- \Among Independents, 57% said that the comments were racist while 15% said they were not.
Based on the topline numbers alone, you’d think that the President’s comments are going to hurt him. However, as The New York Times notes and as the numbers show, these comments are resonating with one segment of the country:
PORT HURON, Mich. — As President Trump presses his attacks against four women of color in Congress, suggesting they are unpatriotic and should leave the country, many voters in this city on Lake Huron are embracing his “America — Love It or Leave It” message, saying they do not see it as racist.
And though they dismiss Mr. Trump’s Twitter broadsides as excessive or juvenile, they voiced strong support for his re-election and expressed their own misgivings about the four women.
“They happen to be black or colored,” Dennis Kovach, 82, said of the women, as he watered the lawn of his home near the lake this weekend. “But I don’t think that viewpoint is a racist viewpoint. I think it’s — quit the bitching, if you don’t like it, do something different about it.”
Tim Marzolf, 57, sitting on a nearby porch on one of the hottest days of July, had a similar view, saying he had been turned off since Day 1 by Representative Rashida Tlaib, the Palestinian-American lawmaker from Detroit who is one of the women the president has attacked.
“Something struck me wrong,” said Mr. Marzolf, a factory worker, referring to Ms. Tlaib’s call for Mr. Trump’s impeachment. “She got elected and came out with the F-word on Trump.”
As Mr. Trump signaled his intent last week to rely on nationalism and identity politics to propel his re-election campaign — portraying Democrats as out of sync with American values — his message did not appear to be backfiring with the conservative voters he hopes to bring out in force in 2020. In this overwhelmingly white district an hour north of Detroit, where his popularity remains high, his comments left people in the familiar position of having to choose a side in the aftermath of another Trump-instigated outrage. And they chose his.
Mr. Trump carried St. Clair County, an auto parts manufacturing center on the Canadian border, with 63 percent of the vote in 2016, cementing a narrow statewide victory and Michigan’s crucial 16 electoral votes. The margin of victory — less than 11,000 votes — was his slimmest in any state.
Michigan is an important piece of Mr. Trump’s path to re-election and is already the focus of some of the Republican Party’s most extensive get-out-the-vote efforts. On Friday, the state party and the Trump campaign kicked off what one party official described in an email to supporters as “the largest and most robust ground game Michigan has ever seen.”
In truth, Michigan could be one of the purest laboratories to test a central paradox of the president’s re-election strategy: To win while he remains widely unpopular — his approval rating is consistently less than 50 percent in national opinion polls — voters don’t need to like him as much as they need to dislike the Democratic nominee.
And as his actions over the last week have shown, he is trying to ensure that happens, by inflicting as much damage as he possibly can to the Democrats’ brand.
In Port Huron, many residents said they were willing to ignore Mr. Trump’s outbursts, pointing to strong hiring in local factories as evidence he was doing a good job. Some raised fears about a move toward socialism within the Democratic Party, and suggested that Mr. Trump’s remarks might even gain him support by showcasing just how far left the Democratic Party has shifted.
The racial divisiveness of his attacks seemed to be pushed to the side.
Fred Miller, the Democratic clerk of nearby Macomb County, a national bellwether that voted twice for Barack Obama but then flipped to Mr. Trump, attributes the lack of outrage to a cultural disconnect over the way many people define racism.
“When some people rightfully call out Trump for these offensive, disgusting comments, I think a lot of other people see themselves in Trump,” he said. “They may not have a college degree, they might not speak about race in P.C. terms, but they don’t think they’re racists.”
So when the president “turns around and says, ‘I’m not racist,'” Mr. Miller added, “I think there are a lot of people who think they don’t have a racist bone in their body either. And Trump gets that.”
Democrats are seeing clear signs in their own research that the president is not as weak politically as he might appear. Last week, lawmakers were presented with the findings of a new poll that looked at sentiment in counties like Macomb that switched from Mr. Obama to Mr. Trump. The poll, commissioned by the progressive campaign finance reform organization End Citizens United, found that a generic Democratic presidential candidate beats Mr. Trump by only 2 points in these counties, 48 percent to 46 percent.
These voters in rural Michigan are exactly the kind of voters that Trump is aiming at motivating as we head into the 2020 election. They are the voters that helped him win Ohio by 500,000 votes and to win traditionally blue states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania by the slim margin of 77,741 votes. They are the voters that his campaign believes can re-elect him even if he does end up with another popular vote minority nationwide. This why the President keeps pushing these buttons and why he will keep doing so.
Whether or not this theory and this strategy pay off remains to seen, of course, but it seems clear that this is the only viable path to victory that the President has going forward. Ordinarily, of course, a President running for re-election seeks to expand their base heading into a re-election bid. It’s the strategy that Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Bush 41, Bush 43 and Obama attempted to do prior to their respective bids for re-election bids. The main reason for this, of course, is that winning based solely on relying on the hope that the same voters will turn out for your is not a smart way to approach an election. Additionally, most politicians actually want people to like and support them. The opposite appears to be true with Donald Trump. He knows that the majority of people will never like him, and never support, and he doesn’t care. Rather than taking steps to temper his behavior and his rhetoric to appeal to them, his entire strategy for 2020 is aimed entirely at revving up his base and making sure that they and people like them show up in the states that matter toward winning even a slim Electoral College majority. That’s why he’s unlikely to change, while his divisive rhetoric is likely to only become more divisive. It’s what got him elected and what he and his advisers think can get him re-elected.