There’s a zesty mix of Twitter reaction today to this poll between “fake news!” and “Kim’s only trying to help his people!” So.
Take your pick of the possible lessons from the numbers. Option one: “This proves many Americans are ignorant of North Korean human rights abuses.” Option two: “This proves negative partisanship is eating America alive.” Option three: “This proves we’ve reached the point where avid news consumers should start drinking in the morning to cope.”
According to the results, 19 percent of Republicans indicated they had a favorable view of Kim with 68 percent saying they had an unfavorable view (12 percent of voters overall had a favorable view of Kim, compared to 75 percent who viewed him unfavorably). That compared slightly better than the perception of Pelosi, who had a 17 percent favorable, 72 percent unfavorable rating among self-identified Republicans.
It’s true, the poll does say that. But it says a few other things too:
1. There’s a weird gender gap in perceptions of Kim — in both parties. Not a huge one but enough of one to catch my attention. Among Republicans, women split 12/69 while men are more than twice as favorable at 25/67. Among Democrats, women are at 2/83 versus men at 17/80. To put that slightly differently, you’re more likely to find a Democratic man giving thumbs up to Kim than a Republican woman.
2. At 12/72, Republican women rate Pelosi almost exactly as favorably as Kim. Republican men are less favorable to Pelosi, whom they rate at 22/72, than they are to Kim.
3. Republicans aren’t the only group whose yardstick for measuring Kim is distorted by partisanship. Democrats as a whole view Kim nearly as favorably as they do Trump, at 8/82 for the North Korean leader versus 10/88 for the president. And the only reason Trump’s slightly ahead is because of Democratic men, who rate him at 15/83. Democratic women split 6/92 on Trump compared to 2/83 on Kim. The president is nearly 10 points higher in unfavorability among them than the monster of Pyongyang.
The real lesson is that much of American politics, both foreign and domestic, is simply a reaction to one’s view of the president. That explains the gender gap, I think. Men generally are a more pro-Trump group than women, Trump’s spent the past week talking up Kim as a partner in peace, therefore Kim’s numbers have improved a bit with males. Among the pro-Kim group, perceptions of Kim are really just perceptions of Trump’s perceptions of Kim. The other lesson is that, in a hyperpartisan age, as a matter of basic math, no partisan leader will be very far ahead of the dregs of humanity like Kim among the opposing party in a poll of favorability. You’re gonna get 10-15 percent favorable for Trump among Dems and for Pelosi among Republicans no matter what; you’re also apt to get 10-15 for Kim, Putin, Assad, the Golden State Killer, etc, no matter what because there’s a slice of the population that’s ignorant/contrarian/weird. Consider it a small mercy given the garbage state of our politics that Kim’s still at just 12/75 among Americans overall after a major diplomatic initiative and various warm words from the president. We haven’t completely lost our moral bearings yet.