President Donald Trump at the Presidential Social Media Summit on July 11, 2019. | Nicholas Kamm /AFP/Getty Images
Responses to Trump’s racist tweets reflect how polarized the country is.
President Donald Trump’s recent racist tweets may have sparked a firestorm, but contrasting responses among Republicans and Democrats signal how polarized the country is right now.
On Sunday, Trump went on Twitter to tell four Congress members to “go back” to the “corrupt” countries they came from: Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). All four women are American citizens; three of the four were born in the US, and Omar left Somalia when she was 6, settling in the US at the age of 10.
Trump’s comments immediately sparked criticism, though responses from Republican lawmakers have been slow and sparse. Instead of condemning Trump, during a memorable scene on the House floor on Tuesday, Republicans tried to twist the controversy into one about Democrats breaking arcane procedural rules by calling Trump’s racist tweets “racist.”
A new poll indicates why GOP members are reluctant to chastise the president. Although a USA Today/Ipsos poll found that a majority of people, 68 percent, saw Trump’s tweets as offensive, there was a stark partisan divide: 93 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents found the tweet offensive, while only 37 percent of Republicans did, according to the poll, which was released on Wednesday. Meanwhile, 57 percent of Republicans said they agreed with Trump’s tweets, while only 7 percent of Democrats agreed.
The contrast could come from the fact that there’s a massive partisan divide in what people see as racist. Only 45 percent of Republicans found telling minorities to “go back where they came from” to be a racist statement, which starkly contrasts with the 85 percent of Democrats who think that way.
It is worth noting that the poll results suggested calling someone racist is more of a personal attack for Republicans: 70 percent of Republicans said that those who call others racist do so in “bad faith,” while only 31 percent of Democrats believed the same.
The issue also boiled down to how both sides defined “American” differently. While 88 percent of Democrats found the president’s tweets “un-American,” only 25 percent of Republicans felt the same way. The difference became more evident when people were asked if it was American to “to point out where America falls short and try to do better.” Fifty-two percent of Republicans found those who criticized American to be un-American, while only 17 percent of Democrats agreed.
The polarized responses to Trump’s tweets can also be seen in Trump’s approval rating. Following the uproar surrounding Trump’s racist comments, support for the president among Republicans rose by 5 percentage points to 72 percent, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday. The same could not be said for his support among other groups: His net approval rating dropped by 2 percent among Democrats.
Overall approval of his performance in office remained at 41 percent, while 55 percent disapproved, the same as last week.
Trump has also been trying to take control of the narrative through, yes, tweets. While his tweets reflect the same conclusion as Reuters — Republican support went up for him after his racist tweets — he tweeted that his approval rating is 50 percent, which is 9 percent higher than what the poll found.
New Poll: The Rasmussen Poll, one of the most accurate in predicting the 2016 Election, has just announced that “Trump” numbers have recently gone up by four points, to 50%. Thank you to the vicious young Socialist Congresswomen. America will never buy your act! #MAGA2020
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2019
As Vox’s Aaron Rupar reports, Rasmussen is the president’s favorite poll to turn to when he is in denial of his low ratings. Yet he fails to recognize that Rasmussen, which tends to skew to the right, is not the most reliable source: It was the least accurate pollster in the run-up to the midterm elections last November. Per CNN:
Rasmussen’s final poll was the least accurate of any of the 32 polls. They had the Republicans ahead nationally by one point. Democrats are currently winning the national House vote by 8.6 points. That’s an error of nearly 10 points.
While Trump may be spreading somewhat misleading information about his approval ratings, the sentiment of his tweet remains accurate: Many Republican voters aren’t bothered by his racist tweets — partly because they don’t even see the statements as racist.