Trump's rhetoric on protests seen as detrimental by majority of Americans: POLL

Even Republicans are divided on his approach, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds.

September 4, 2020, 5:30 AM

A significant majority of Americans believe President Donald Trump's rhetoric on the unrest in parts of the country is making matters worse -- with even members of his own party divided on his approach -- a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday finds.

Trump's attempt to reframe the race against former Vice President Joe Biden around "law and order," does not appear to be breaking through.

Over half of the country -- 55% -- in the new poll, which was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos' Knowledge Panel, said they think Trump is aggravating the situation, while just over one in 10 Americans, 13%, said they think he is making it better. Fewer than one-third, 29%, believe what Trump has said on the topic has had no effect on the protests over racial injustice.

Among his base, 30% of Republicans say the president is improving the situation, compared to 26% who say he's having an adverse impact. Only 18% of white, non-college educated Americans, another core constituency for the president, believe he is having a positive effect on the protests, while 41% view his comments on the demonstrations amid the debate over racial equality as having a negative influence.

Most Democrats, 79%, and a majority of independents, 53%, also believe Trump is making the situation worse, while 4% of Democrats and 9% of independents see him as a positive influence.

Do you think what Donald Trump/Joe Biden has said about the protests that have been happening in parts of the country makes the situation better, worse or doesn’t have much of an effect one way or the other?
ABC News/Ipsos Poll

For Biden, who has rooted his campaign in a message of unity in the face of unprecedented division, Americans see him as a more neutral figure, with nearly half, 49%, saying he's not having much of an effect either way. Just over one in five, 22%, Americans believe he is improving circumstances for the country with his approach, while roughly one in four, 26%, view him as having a detrimental effect.

Assessments of Biden transcend party lines, with 49% of Democrats, 40% of Republicans and 54% of independents saying his comments on the protests virtually have had no impact. About four in 10 Democrats, 39%, 6% of Republicans, and one in five independents see Biden as making things better, while 9% of Democrats, half of Republicans and 24% of independents believe he's making matters worse.

In addition, as Trump attempts to position himself as the candidate who will keep the country safe, Biden is the one leading in perceptions on the issue and others tied to it.

Between the two candidates, more Americans trust Biden over Trump to keep the country safe, 55%-42%; to keep their families safe, 56%-42%; to care more about them, 59%-38%; to unite the country, 64%-33%; to handle the protests across the country, 59%-39%; to address racial discrimination, 64%-34%; to manage the COVID-19 response, 60%-38%; and to reduce violence in the country, 59%-39%.

Please indicate whether the phrase best describes Donald Trump or Joe Biden.
ABC News/Ipsos Poll

The new survey comes as both men traveled this week to Kenosha, Wisconsin, the site of the most recent unrest. Last month, a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back -- inciting, in turns, peaceful demonstrations and acts of violence, including the killing of two protesters.

Biden privately met with Blake's family on Thursday and spoke to the 29 year old over the phone while he is still in the hospital. During the trip, the Democratic nominee criticized Trump’s rhetoric for providing cover to hate.

"(It's) not all his fault. But it legitimizes a dark side of human nature ... it also exposed what had not been paid enough attention to, the underlying racism that is institutionalized in the United States, still, still exists, has existed for 400 years," he said.

The poll went into the field the day after Trump toured damaged businesses and met with law enforcement on Tuesday, where he claimed, "These are not acts of peaceful protest but really domestic terror."

The president did not once mention Blake during the stop.

Still, an overwhelming majority of Americans -- 80% -- are concerned about the protests across the country. That concern could be fueled by a number of factors, including either the underlying causes of the demonstrations or the unforeseen fallout that unfolds in their wake.

This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs‘ KnowledgePanel® September 2-3, 2020, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 709 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 4.0 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 31-25-38 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents. See the poll’s topline results and details on the methodology here.

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