This is right in line with the CBS poll taken last week that had Trump at 34/55 on how he handled Charlottesville. Today’s poll from ABC/WaPo has it 28/56. On balance, when you ask Americans a very general question about Trump’s reaction to what happened, they break strongly negative. Ask them a more specific question, though, about whether both sides were to blame for the violence or if the “far right” bears chief responsibility and the divisions become more complicated.
The most striking thing about the ABC/WaPo data is the number of Republicans who give Trump thumbs down on Charlottesville. His overall job approval is 37 percent but his approval on this matter specifically is nearly 10 points lower, thanks to a sharp drop among GOPers. Do those unhappy Republicans disapprove of his reaction to Charlottesville because they think he wasn’t hard enough on the alt-right or do they disapprove because they think he was too hard on them? Remember, according to SurveyMonkey, nine percent of all Americans and 17 percent of Republicans believe the liberal counter-protesters bear most of the blame for the violence. There may be a segment of GOPers that thinks Trump was too soft on the Antifa element that showed up to rumble and is rating him poorly because of it.
Compared with his overall job performance, approval of his response to Charlottesville is 18 points lower among Republicans and 13 points lower among conservatives.
Only about one-third of Americans reject the suggestion that Trump has been equating neo-Nazis and white supremacists with those who oppose them. That said, there’s division and uncertainty on the question: Forty-two percent say he’s been doing this, while 35 percent think not and 23 percent have no opinion.
In pondering whether Republicans disapprove because Trump was too soft on the alt-right or too hard, consider this … interesting data:
There’s far more agreement on whether it’s acceptable or unacceptable to hold neo-Nazi or white supremacist views. Across groups, 4 to 17 percent call this acceptable, with the largest numbers among men, Republicans and strong conservatives, all 13 percent; young adults, 14 percent; and those who strongly approve of the president’s work in office, 17 percent.
An additional 13 percent of strong Trump supporters have no opinion on whether it’s acceptable or not. That leaves 70 percent of his strong supporters who call neo-Nazi or white supremacist views unacceptable, compared with 92 percent of his strong opponents.
Among people who say they strongly support Trump fully 30 percent believe it’s either acceptable to hold white supremacist views or have no opinion. If you want to believe that Republicans are mad at Trump for putting too much blame on the alt-right rather than not enough, that’s your best evidence. But that argument runs up against the fact that prominent alt-righters and white supremacists were themselves cheered by Trump’s equivocation last week. David Duke congratulated him for his remarks, as did Richard Spencer, and the Daily Stormer crowed about Trump’s “many sides” rhetoric. If they don’t think Trump went too far in blaming the right, odds are other Republicans don’t either.
Whatever the truth, despite the obsessive media coverage, Charlottesville doesn’t seem to have hurt Trump’s bottom line — by and large. He was at 36 percent job approval in July and he’s at 37 percent now, per ABC/WaPo. The one key difference is in the share of Republicans who say they “strongly” support him. That stands at 80 percent now; a month ago it was 10 points higher. Whether that’s Charlottesville fallout at work or, more likely, a broader reaction to the chaos of the past month, only hardcore Trumpers know.