Poll: Trump missed an opportunity to unite after Charlottesville

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A majority of voters say that President Trump missed an opportunity to bring the country together after three people died last week when white nationalists clashed with counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va.

According to a new Harvard-Harris survey provided exclusively to The Hill, 57 percent called Trump’s response a missed opportunity, while 43 percent said the media and Democrats would attack Trump irrespective of his response.

Eighty-four percent of Democrats called it a missed opportunity, as did 59 percent of independents. Only a quarter of Republicans feel the same.

“The president is seen as having missed an opportunity to bring the country together when violence broke out in Charlottesville, even as a majority agrees that violence was committed on both sides,” said Harvard-Harris co-director Mark Penn.

“His arguing the point about the violence is a Pyrrhic victory as he still gets the blame for the polarization in the country. The voters are looking for a uniter and he is coming off as a divider. It will take far more consistent tone and messaging to change this image.”

Trump called for unity on the day of the protests but was criticized for not directly calling out white supremacists or the Ku Klux Klan by name and for saying that there was blame to go around “on many sides.”

The president directly denounced racist groups in a second address two days later, but the next day reignited a firestorm by again blaming both sides and saying there were some good people marching with the white nationalists.

The public is split, with 51 percent of those polled in the Harvard-Harris survey saying Trump was right to condemn violence on all sides in Charlottesville, while 49 percent said he should only have singled out white nationalists as the problem.

Eighty-five percent of Republicans said Trump was right to condemn all violence. A majority of Democrats, 76 percent, and independents, 55 percent, said Trump should only have singled out the white nationalists.

A majority — 55 percent — said Trump’s statement calling new-Nazi groups evil and announcing the Justice Department and FBI would investigate the matter should put an end to the controversy.

Voters are split down the middle as to whether the CEOs who abandoned Trump’s economic councils did so out of conscience or to grandstand for the public.

Meanwhile, the survey found race relations in the country deteriorating — 70 percent said they’re getting worse, 20 percent said they’re the same and only 9 percent said they’re getting better.

Fifty-nine percent said Trump should do more to bring black and white people together. Fifty-seven percent said the president is alienating black and Latino communities with his rhetoric.

The Harvard-Harris Poll of 2,263 registered voters was conducted from Aug. 17 to 22. The partisan breakdown is 37 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican, 29 percent independent and 3 percent other.

The Harvard-Harris Poll is a collaboration of the Harvard Center for American Political Studies and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard-Harris Poll throughout 2017. 

Full poll results will be posted online later this week. The Harvard–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.


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