Mellman: Trump can fix it

Mellman: Trump can fix it
© Getty Images

If we didn’t know it from the public outpouring of anger and criticism by leaders across the political spectrum, we now know it from the polls: Americans overwhelmingly oppose President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE’s policy of forcibly separating children from their parents at the border.

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted June 14-17, found Americans opposed the separation by nearly a 40 point margin. Just 27 percent support the policy with 66 percent opposed.

CNN, polling over the same dates with a somewhat different question, obtained nearly identical results—28 percent approved, 67 percent disapproved.


During the same period, CBS pollsters posed a different question, to which 67 percent replied that separating parents and children at the border is “unacceptable,” whereas 17 percent labeled the policy “acceptable.”

It’s no surprise that Democrats are hostile. Averaging the nearly identical Quinnipiac and CNN polls indicates just 7 percent of Democrats support Trump’s move, while 92 percent oppose it.

In addition, 68 percent of independents oppose separating families, while 26 percent favor the idea.

That rank-and-file Republicans approve of their president’s action shouldn’t be a shocker, but the level of dissent is meaningfully higher than usual. These two polls together find 36 percent of GOP voters opposed to President Trump’s policy, while 56 percent support it.

Of course, these polls were conducted before the full brunt of bipartisan anger filtered to the public.

Republican leaders such as Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBiden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only MORE (Wis.), and Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsFormer OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Masks off: CDC greenlights return to normal for vaccinated Americans Masks shed at White House; McConnell: 'Free at last' MORE (Maine) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRepublicans have dumped Reagan for Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP MORE (Ariz.), along with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have all spoken out since these polls were mostly completed.

Players with bigger followings have also now joined the fray. Will the fact that Laura Bush and Melania TrumpMelania TrumpHere's why Joe Biden polls well, but Kamala Harris does not Jill Biden a key figure in push to pitch White House plans Petition calls for Jill Biden to undo Trump-era changes to White House Rose Garden MORE condemned this policy have an impact?

One might expect a child being ripped from its mother’s arms to exert a greater emotional tug on the heart strings of women, and in the data it does, though I’m relieved to find men also have their moral bearings, at least on this issue.

Sixty percent of men oppose Trump’s family separation policy, compared to 73 percent of women.

It’s not just female leaders however taking issue with this outrage.

A host of religious leaders have also stepped into the debate with unequivocal condemnations. The Rev. Franklin Graham, a stalwart apologist for Trump’s personal behavior, called this move “disgraceful” and “terrible.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops branded it “immoral.”

Chances are, when the issue is next polled, even more Republicans will oppose it.

Interestingly though, the vehemence of public reaction caught some off guard, and not just those inhabiting the White House. After all, Trump won importantly on immigration issues.

But the truth is Trump’s immigration policies have mostly been unpopular.

Last week, Quinnipiac found 67 percent saying illegal immigrants living in the U.S. “should be allowed to stay in the United States and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.” Only 19 percent favored requiring them to leave.

Those numbers are not far from the responses the same poll posted just after the election when 60 percent favored a path to citizenship and 25 percent wanted these immigrants to be forced to leave.

Only 39 percent favor Trump’s signature border wall, with 58 percent opposed.

In the CNN poll, 80 percent favor continuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

In fact, there has been a consensus in American public opinion about immigration for some years now — and that consensus is fundamentally at odds with Trump’s platform.

The issue has never really been about policy though, a source of confusion for some who can only see debates through the prism of policy. But that’s the subject for a different column.

For now, though, the debate is about a wholly immoral and very unpopular policy — separating young children from their parents.

By the time you read this, we can only hope Trump will have caved to public anger and reversed his awful course.  

Mellman is president of The Mellman Group and has helped elect 30 U.S. senators, 12 governors and dozens of House members. Mellman served as pollster to Senate Democratic leaders for more than 20 years and as president of the American Association of Political Consultants.