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Americans Are More Worried About White Nationalism After El Paso

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Poll of the week

After the deadly mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, this month, more Americans now describe white nationalism as a serious threat to the United States, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. Compared to the last time the poll asked this question, in March, both Democrats and Republicans in the latest poll were more likely to say that the country was threatened by white nationalism.1

But the El Paso shooting, in which the gunman told police that he explicitly targeted Mexicans, has not narrowed the partisan gap on white nationalism. HuffPost/YouGov polls have asked about the threat of white nationalism four times in the two years since a neo-Nazi killed a woman by driving into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and each time there has been a huge partisan gap in perceptions. If anything, the gap has gotten bigger:

Democrats have long been more likely than Republicans to say that white nationalism is a “somewhat” or “very” serious threat. But the gap has expanded from 33 points right after Charlottesville to 52 points now. (Though the gap was slightly larger this spring, so the El Paso shooting seems have narrowed the gap a bit.)

Not surprisingly, that partisan gap also shows up in how Americans view President Trump’s relationship with white nationalism. According to the most recent HuffPost/YouGov poll, 77 percent of Democrats think Trump supports the ideology, but only 10 percent of Republicans agree. Democratic politicians, including many of the 2020 contenders, have called the preseident a “white nationalist” and a “white supremacist,” and have been outspoken in saying that Trump’s rhetoric incites violence.

Trump has dismissed these attacks as being motivated by political gain. In a public statement after the El Paso shooting, Trump said that the nation must condemn “racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” but an analysis of the document the shooter wrote explaining his actions found that it used many of the same anti-immigrant phrases that Trump has used in the past. And as my colleague Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux reported last week, experts say that racist rhetoric can make people more likely to act on their preexisting prejudices.

Indeed, polls show that the public is concerned about the effects of inflammatory political rhetoric. According to a survey from the Pew Research Center conducted in May — prior to the El Paso attack — large majorities of both Democrats and Republicans said that when elected officials use “heated or aggressive language” to talk about certain people or groups, it makes violence against those people more likely. A majority of respondents from both parties also agreed that politicians should avoid “heated language” because they think it could encourage violence.

But while there seems to be consensus around the idea that heated rhetoric is dangerous in the abstract, partisans don’t agree on where that rhetoric is coming from. The August HuffPost/YouGov poll found that 73 percent of Democrats say Trump’s rhetoric encourages his supporters to act violently, but 64 percent of Republicans feel the same way about the rhetoric of Democratic politicians.

Other polling bites

  • On Monday, Trump announced a new regulation that would deny permanent legal status to immigrants who are deemed likely to use government benefit programs like those that subsidize the cost of people’s housing and groceries. According to a YouGov poll conducted after the policy’s announcement, 28 percent of Americans, including 11 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans, agreed that immigrants who use public benefits should not be able to receive green cards. Fifty-two percent of Americans think that immigrants who receive benefits should be able to get green cards, and 20 percent said they don’t know.
  • According to a new Gallup poll, 57 percent of Americans (including 85 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of Republicans) support allowing refugees who are fleeing Central American countries to enter the U.S. That’s up 6 percentage points from December, including a 10 percentage point jump among Republicans.
  • A poll from the Pew Research Center, however, found that public support for a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria is down slightly, from 77 percent in March 2017 to 72 percent this summer. That’s mostly due to dipping support among Republicans.
  • Vermonters are more likely than people from any other state to say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases, and Louisianans are least likely. That’s according to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute that combined telephone interviews from over 40,000 respondents between January and December of 2018, allowing for unusually detailed demographic crosstabs of variables like state of residence and religious affiliation.
  • 60 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of China, according to a Pew Research Center poll. That’s the highest share Pew has recorded since 2005, when it began asking the question.
  • Only 15 percent of Americans would be willing to try deep-fried soda, and just 16 percent would be willing to try deep-fried butter, per a YouGov poll about food that Americans might encounter at a state or county fair. The poll also found that corn dogs are America’s favorite food served on a stick.
  • Tunisians will go to the polls next month to elect a new president after the recent death of Béji Caïd Essebsi, the nation’s first democratically elected president since the Arab Uprisings began there in late 2010. There are two polls from June and July that show Nabil Karoui, a media magnate who has been accused of money laundering, in the lead, but the surveys were conducted before Essebsi’s death. Because the president died before the end of his term, the country’s elections authority moved the presidential election from November up to September, meaning it will now take place before the October parliamentary vote, which significantly muddies the electoral picture. Karoui will appear alongside 25 other candidates on the ballot.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.2 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 53.4 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -11.2 points). At this time last week, 42.1 percent approved and 53.2 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -11.1 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 42.4 percent and a disapproval rating of 52.7 percent, for a net approval rating of -10.3 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 6.2 percentage points (46.1 percent to 39.9 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 6.2 points (46.1 percent to 39.9 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 6.4 points (46.3 percent to 39.9 percent).

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.

Footnotes

  1. A Politico/Morning Consult poll also found an increase from March in the share of both Democrats and Republicans who thought white nationalism was “a critical threat” to the United States.

Dhrumil Mehta is a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight focusing on politics.

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