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More Americans Support Aid When Told Puerto Ricans Are U.S. Citizens

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup. Today’s theme song: “Makin’ It” from the television show “Makin’ It.”

Poll of the week

As a humanitarian crisis unfolds in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island last week, the U.S. government’s response has been criticized, and much of the mainland news media has been focused on other issues. Polling shows that many Americans don’t know a lot about the U.S. territory, but as they learn more, the focus may shift in the mainland’s response.

Last year, YouGov found that only 43 percent of Americans knew Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens. A poll conducted after Maria by Morning Consult showed that number may be up, but only slightly: Just 54 percent of Americans knew Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens.

Morning Consult also found a relationship between how much people knew about Puerto Rico and how much they supported post-Maria aid. Among Americans who knew Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens, about 8 in 10 supported government aid, compared to just 4 in 10 people who did not know. Overall, 64 percent were in favor of aid to the island.

Don’t be surprised if that overall percentage goes up, especially among Trump supporters, as more Americans learn that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. That 64 percent in favor of aid increased to 68 when respondents were informed that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Trump backers specifically saw a 10-point jump — from 57 percent to 67 percent — in favoring aid when told that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.

For comparison, 80 percent of Americans said they approved of a $62 billion relief package passed and signed into law after Hurricane Katrina, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

Other polling nuggets

  • Americans hated Graham-Cassidy — Republicans may have caught a break when their latest Obamacare repeal effort failed. A number of polls came out this week (see the chart below) showing that far more Americans opposed Graham-Cassidy than supported it, generally by more than 20 percentage points. When asked directly about a comparison of the two in an ABC News/Washington Post survey, 56 percent preferred Obamacare to Graham-Cassidy, while 33 percent favored the GOP bill.
  • Melania Trump is more popular than her husband — First lady Melania Trump continues the long tradition of presidential spouses being better liked than presidents. She had a net favorability of +9 percentage points in a recent CNN survey; Trump came in at -16 points. Unfortunately for Melania, other recent first ladies — Hillary Clinton (+19 points to +35 points, depending on the poll), Laura Bush (+47 points) and Michelle Obama (+43 points) — all had higher net favorability ratings than she does at this point in their husbands’ presidencies.
  • Bob Menendez is in deep trouble — Outside of our colleague Clare Malone, there’s been little national attention paid to next year’s New Jersey Senate race. It should receive more. Yes, New Jersey is a deep blue state, but Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez is currently on trial for corruption. His favorable rating among Jersey voters was just 20 percent in a Suffolk University poll out this past week, while his unfavorable rating was 46 percent. If nothing else, watch the race to see if a serious challenger emerges against Menendez in the Democratic primary.
  • The NFL vs. Trump is complicated — Americans don’t seem to like their options in the fight between President Trump and the NFL over players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence against African-Americans. Just 41 percent think it’s appropriate for players to kneel, according to a Fox News survey. That’s up slightly from 32 percent in 2016. A YouGov poll, however, found that only 40 percent oppose the right of players to kneel during the anthem. A different YouGov poll found that just 36 percent approved of Trump’s response to the NFL protests.

Trump’s job approval ratings

Trump’s job approval rating is 38.8 percent; his disapproval rating is 55.1 percent. It’s the first time since we started Pollapalooza that Trump suffered a week-to-week decline in his popularity. Last week his approval rating was 39.5 percent, while his disapproval rating was 53.6 percent. The downtick in Trump’s approval rating may be tied to him dominating the news with his feud with the NFL, after he had kept a lower profile for a few weeks.

The generic ballot

Democrats lead Republicans 46.1 percent to 38.1 percent on the generic congressional ballot. That’s about the same as it was last week when Democrats were ahead 46.4 percent to 38.6 percent.

CORRECTION (Sept. 29, 2:43 p.m.): Because of an editing error, a previous version of this article gave the incorrect number for Trump’s approval rating on the evening of Sept. 28. It was 38.8 percent, not 38.1 percent.

Harry Enten is a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.

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