8/17: Trump’s Response to Charlottesville Weak, Says Majority

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll

The weekend protests and disturbing events in Charlottesville, Virginia have stunned and outraged many throughout the nation.  But, the majority of Americans are also troubled by President Donald Trump’s response.  52% think the president’s reaction has not been strong enough, and 27% disagree.  A notable 21% are uncertain how to characterize the president’s reaction.

77% of African Americans and 55% of Latinos believe President Trump’s response has been inadequate.  Even a plurality of white Americans, 46%, agree his response has come up short.  Only 31% of white residents think he has demonstrated sufficient leadership.

“By nearly two to one Americans think that President Trump dropped the ball in his handling of this crisis,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.  “Not surprisingly, African Americans and Latinos do not feel the president has their back, but, of note, many white Americans are not in the president’s corner either.”

There is a strong consensus among Americans, 67%, that the use of a car to plow into counter-protestors should be investigated as an act of domestic terrorism.  These feelings are shared by 75% of Latinos, 70% of African Americans, and 65% of white residents.  Even 58% of Trump’s supporters agree.  21% of Americans do not think the fatal crash should be characterized in that way, and 12% are unsure.

“President Trump’s reluctance to label the fatal crash in Charlottesville as domestic terrorism is out of step with not only two-thirds of Americans, overall, but with people regardless of their race or political party,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.  “The president’s sentiments clearly do not line up with the American people.”

For most Americans, there is only one side to what unfolded in Charlottesville.  Few residents nationwide agree with the beliefs held by groups attending the “Unite the Right” rally including the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, or white nationalists.  Although the Alt-Right also has few adherents, more Americans are unsure about their feelings toward this group.

In contrast, Black Lives Matter is viewed very differently than the groups on the right.  50% of Americans mostly agree with the beliefs of Black Lives Matter including a plurality of white residents, 46%.  33% of Americans disagree.  The Antifa is largely unknown to most Americans although it is unpopular among those who are familiar with it.

A pessimistic view exists about the nature of race relations in the United States.  A majority of Americans, 52%, think race relations have worsened in the past year, and another 22% say they are unchanged and describe that as a bad thing. This sentiment extends across racial lines.

Americans value freedom of expression.  More than six in ten Americans, 62%, believe the statues which honor the leaders of the Confederacy should remain as historical symbols.  27% think they should be removed because they are offensive.  There are differences of opinion across racial lines.  67% of white residents and 65% of Latinos recognize the historical significance of the statues.  African Americans divide.  44% think the statues should remain, and 40% want them to be removed because they are offensive.

When asked about the level of freedom afforded to Americans to protest and criticize the government, a plurality, 43%, say things are okay the way they are.  21% think we have gone too far in expanding the right to protest and an identical 21% think we have gone too far in restricting the right.

Although the situation in North Korea may not be the top story at the moment, it may very well return to the national debate.  When asked about the best way to handle North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, nearly three in four Americans favor diplomatic and not military means.  73% say the United States should either directly negotiate with North Korea, 40%, or should convince China to use its influence to stop North Korea’s nuclear programs, 33%.  Just 9% think the U.S. should use air strikes to knock out the nation’s nuclear facilities, and 4% say the United States should send troops to overthrow the government.  Three percent want the United States to launch a first strike nuclear attack.  11% are unsure.

61% of U.S. residents have either not very much, 21%, or no confidence at all, 40%, in President Trump to lead the nation in an international crisis.  39% say they have either a great deal of trust, 18%, or a good amount of confidence, 21%, in him to do so.

“President Trump still has a lot of convincing to do with the American people in order to establish himself as commander-in-chief,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

When it comes to President Trump’s overall job approval rating, 35% approve of how he is doing his job.  51% disapprove.  This is little changed from a similar poll conducted last week.

Complete August 17, 2017 NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll Release of the United States

Complete August 17, 2017 NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll of the United States (Tables of Adults and Registered Voters)

Marist Poll Methodology

Nature of the Sample