Results of the new NPR/PBS Marist poll are pretty surprising for we who have relied on the media to accurately report on the mindset of the country. It’s not that the numbers are good for Trump; they’re not. It’s that it hasn’t been nearly the disaster you would have expected. Here are the complete results. Highlights:
- Trump’s overall disapproval rate is 51 percent, but he’s still holding strong among Republicans. His disapproval rate has not substantially changed all year. Charlottesville didn’t affect it
- His white Evangelical support remains strong (58 percent approval), but much less than the 80 percent who voted for him
- A strong majority (62 percent) of Americans favor leaving the Confederate statues standing as historical markers
- Overwhelming numbers of Republicans (86 percent) favor this, as do 61 percent of Independents
- The only group with a majority favoring removal (57 percent) are “Strong Democrats” — as opposed to “Soft Democrats,” who slightly favor keeping them (52 percent)
- When defined by political ideology, only Liberal/Very Liberal people muster a majority for taking statues down (57 percent). Among self-described Moderates, 67 percent favor leaving the statues standing. A whopping 81 percent of Conservative/Very Conservative people favor the statues staying in place
- Unsurprisingly, the Northeast is the region of the country most in favor of removing the statues — but even there, a majority (53 percent) backs leaving the statues standing
- Here’s a stunner: 44 percent of African-Americans polled believe in keeping the statues standing. Of Latinos, 65 percent believe the statues should remain
- Comfortable majorities — no less than 60 percent — in each age cohort support the statues
- This is barely an issue with white Evangelicals, 85 percent of whom back the statues. Only nine percent favor removal, with the rest unsure
- On Trump’s response to Charlottesville, 52 percent believe it hasn’t been strong enough
- Of that number, 52 percent of Independents believe Trump has fallen short; only 30 percent are satisfied
- A comfortable majority (59 percent) of Republicans are satisfied with Trump’s handling of the issue
- Most Trump supporters (62 percent) think he’s done a good job with Charlottesville. Only 15 percent think he should have done more. The rest are unsure
- The younger you are, the more likely you are to disapprove of Trump’s handling of Charlottesville. Twice as many 60-or-olders (37 percent) approve of Trump’s actions, versus 18 percent of 18-to-29ers
- Americans overwhelmingly disapprove (over 90 percent across the board) of white supremacists, white nationalists, the KKK, and the alt-right
- Though eight times as many disapprove of the alt-right (48 percent) as approve of it (six percent), about half of Americans (46 percent) don’t have an opinion or are unsure
- The only categories who approve of the alt-right in double digits are Latinos (13 percent) and 18-to-29 year olds (10 percent). Six percent of Latinos approve of the KKK
- Black Lives Matter has a 50 percent overall approval rating, and a 33 percent disapproval rating, with the rest either unsure or having no opinion.
- Of Liberals, 83 percent back Black Lives Matter; 51 percent of Moderates do; but only 26 percent of Conservatives do
- On Antifa, five times as many people oppose it (24 percent) as back it (five percent), but the overwhelming majority of Americans (71 percent) are either unsure or have no opinion
- An unsettling 61 percent have little or no confidence in Donald Trump’s leadership of the nation in an international crisis
- Conservatives and Republicans are the only ones with a majority who trust Trump’s leadership in an international crisis. A very strong majority of Moderates and Independents do not trust Trump, nor do overwhelming majorities of Liberals and Democrats
- A massive majority (73 percent) of Americans favor a non-military means of dealing with the North Korea nuclear standoff
- Less than 10 percent favor a nuclear first strike. The demographic group most in favor of starting a nuclear war with North Korea? White Evangelicals, at seven percent
So, what are the lessons here? I can think of a few:
- The news media have been seriously distorting public reaction to Trump’s handling of Charlottesville. Whether this is a matter of only seeing what they want to see, or a matter of the talking heads being concentrated among coastal elites of both parties, is a matter of conjecture. True, a slight majority of Americans think Trump didn’t go far enough, but judging from the coverage and commentary, you would have thought at Charlottesville, Trump met his Waterloo. It didn’t happen. Charlottesville is not nearly a big a deal to Americans as it is to the media and coastal elites.
- Trump’s disapproval rating is very high, but Charlottesville didn’t really move the needle. And he’s kept his base.
- Continuing to attack Confederate statues is a big loser for Democrats and liberals. A strong majority of Americans favors keeping them standing. Only liberals want to see them go. When even 44 percent of African-Americans favor leaving the statues alone, the take-them-down faction of the Left has a serious echo chamber problem.
- This is likely to cause them to seriously overreach. If Democrats and liberals only pay attention to the media and to each other on the statue debate, they are going to alienate a lot of people. The hostile media environment has made it very difficult for anybody to speak up for keeping the statues, even though that is a majority opinion in America. So people will keep that opinion to themselves.
- In turn, they may very well stew on it, angry at the liberal gatekeepers of respectable opinion either not caring about their opinion, or shutting them down as racists.
- Do not underestimate the power of cultural symbols to drive voter behavior.
- Americans have no trouble condemning white supremacists and the far right, while at the same time supporting the statues. Americans probably do not believe they are racist for wanting the statues to remain in place.
- Charlottesville was the first time most Americans will have been introduced to both Antifa and the Alt-Right.
- Trump remains an extremely divisive figure. For any Commander in Chief, the idea that six out of 10 Americans do not trust your leadership in an international crisis is potentially destabilizing.
- And, it’s telling that younger voters are half as likely to back Trump’s handling of Charlottesville than older voters. This is not terribly surprising, but it points to long-term problems the GOP faces reaching the young after Trump departs the scene. One way or another, Trump will leave a strong legacy when his presidency ends — one that the Republican Party will be dealing with for a long time.
UPDATE: Oh wow. A black CNN commentator, Angela Rye, said this today on the air:
“The heart of the problem is the way many of us were taught American history. American history is not all glorious. I love John to death, I couldn’t disagree more about George Washington. George Washington was a slave owner. We need to call slave owners out for what they are. Whether we think they were protecting American freedom or not. He wasn’t protecting my freedom. I wasn’t someone – my ancestors weren’t deemed human beings to him. To me, I don’t care if it’s a George Washington statue or a Thomas Jefferson statue or a Robert E. Lee statue, they all need to come down…I’m calling out white supremacy for what it is. And sometimes, what it is, John, are blind spots. Sometimes what it is, is not acknowledging this country was built upon a very violent past that resulted in the death and the raping and the killing of my ancestors. I’m not going to allow us to say it’s okay for Robert E. Lee but not a George Washington. We need to call it what it is.”
Here we go. That’s the thing about the Left: the Law Of Merited Impossibility — “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it” — has infallible predictive powers.