Majority says calling MS-13 members 'animals' is fair: poll

Majority says calling MS-13 members 'animals' is fair: poll

A majority of Americans in a new poll believe it’s fair to characterize members of the MS-13 gang as “animals,” according to the survey taken after President TrumpDonald John TrumpArizona GOP Senate candidate defends bus tour with far-right activist Alyssa Milano protests Kavanaugh in 'Handmaid's Tale' costume Bomb in deadly Yemen school bus attack was manufactured by US firm: report MORE faced controversy for remarks during an immigration meeting.

Fifty-six percent of American adults in the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll said referring to members of the gang as “animals” is fair, compared to 44 percent who said the characterization was unfair.

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A slimmer majority, 52 percent, added that comments that “dehumanize” members of MS-13 are acceptable.

The question stems from Trump’s comments last week during an immigration roundtable. A California sheriff criticized "sanctuary cities" and said there could be an “MS-13 member I know about” that she can’t take action against because state officials are ordered to ignore federal immigration laws.

In response, Trump said, “We are taking people out of the country, you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a rate that’s never happened before.” 

Critics accused Trump of painting a broader brush of immigrants in America illegally as “animals,” while Trump and his allies claimed he was only referring to MS-13 members.

On immigration as a whole, the Harvard/Harris poll found Americans still broadly supportive of immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for "Dreamers" — people who came to America illegally as children. 

Almost two-thirds said they’d back a deal that provides Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship in exchange for shifting immigration rules to prioritize merit over family ties, eliminating the diversity visa lottery, and funding “barrier security” on the southern border.

That debate is reaching a boiling point in Congress, where a group of Republican lawmakers are joining with Democrats in the hopes of forcing a slew of votes on immigration, including one on addressing Dreamers. 

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll online survey of 1,347 registered voters was conducted May 21-22. The partisan breakdown is 37 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican, 29 percent independent and 2 percent other. 

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard/Harris Poll throughout 2018.

Full poll results will be posted online later this week. The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.