This didn’t get a mention in the CBS News report on its polling with YouGov, but it certainly seems critical for the political moment. With protests and riots roiling American cities, the issue of policing has become front and center in the 2020 election at all levels. Donald Trump wants to make “law and order” the central message of his campaign, betting on Americans to take the side of public safety and law enforcement over lawlessness and chaos in the streets.
Is that a good bet? The poll does show a significant amount of nuance on that issue — at least when it comes to protests and Trump. The president only gets a 44/56 rating on how he’s handled the protests, with 47% strongly disapproving and only 26% strongly approving. A 47% plurality think Trump is encouraging fighting rather than trying to calm the situation (39%). Those numbers get reversed for Joe Biden, with a 51/45 approval rating on the protests and a 49/30 plurality for trying to calm the situation.
That in itself doesn’t look good. It’s the later numbers that indicate that Trump’s on the right side, even if he’s not finding the right message yet. For instance, when asked to describe what protesters are trying to do in Portland and Kenosha, the non-exclusive answers show considerable skepticism about their aim. A slight majority thinks they want to destroy property, and a substantial number think they’re watching a revolution rather than a protest: