A majority of Americans in a new poll say President Donald Trump’s response to the violence that broke out a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia was “not strong enough.”
Fifty-two percent of respondents in the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll said Trump’s response should have been stronger, while 27 percent said it was strong enough.
Twenty-one percent were uncertain in their thoughts on the matter.
Of the 1,125 Americans surveyed for the poll, 80 percent were interviewed following Trump’s comments Tuesday that “both sides” shared blame for the Saturday violence at the “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally.
The protest by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue quickly turned violent as a man drove his car into the crowd, killing one woman.
Sixty-seven percent of the respondents said there should be an investigation into whether the car incident was an act of domestic terrorism.
“President Trump’s reluctance to label the fatal crash in Charlottesville as domestic terrorism is out of step with not only two-thirds of Americans, overall, but with people regardless of their race or political party,” said Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “The president’s sentiments clearly do not line up with the American people.”
When it comes to race, 77 percent of African-Americans, 55 percent of Latinos, and 46 percent of white respondents said Trump’s response was inadequate.
“By nearly two to one, Americans think that President Trump dropped the ball in his handling of this crisis,” Miringoff said. “Not surprisingly, African Americans and Latinos do not feel the president has their back, but, of note, many white Americans are not in the president’s corner either.”
Trump’s response to the Charlottesville incident has morphed since Saturday. After originally calling out violence on “many sides” Saturday, he made additional remarks Monday condemning the white nationalist groups specifically.
“Racism is evil,” Trump said in remarks to reporters in the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
But on Tuesday, Trump again blamed “both sides,” saying he had refrained from naming the white supremacist groups until he had all the “facts.” He also said there were “very fine people on both sides.”
The poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday by Marist, in collaboration with NPR and PBS NewsHour. United States adults 18 years of age and older were contacted on landline or mobile numbers by live interviewers. The margin of error was 2.9 percentage points.