Americans’ support for the Black Lives Matter protests has declined since the immediate aftermath of the death of George Floyd in May renewed a national conversation on race, yet more than half still disapprove of President Donald Trump’s response, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.
The July 27-28 poll also showed a largely partisan reaction to Trump’s decision to deploy federal agents to quell demonstrators in some cities against the wishes of local authorities. About four in 10, most of them Democrats, say Republican Trump is just trying to help himself politically as he seeks a second term in the Nov. 3 election.
The poll follows a series of late-night clashes between protesters and federal police in Portland, Oregon, where demonstrators have held nightly anti-racism rallies. Trump sent federal police into the city despite the mayor’s objections to deal with what he called “anarchists and agitators,” and he has sent others to Seattle, Chicago, Kansas City and Albuquerque.
According to the poll, 52% of American adults say they are sympathetic to those who are still gathering to protest the police treatment of minorities, especially African Americans, about 12 percentage points lower than a similar poll that ran in mid-June.
But a majority of Americans remain unhappy with the way he has responded. The poll showed 54% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the protests, which is only a slight improvement from a similar poll that ran in mid-June when 58% disapproved.
The rise in support comes primarily from Republicans who have backed the president in greater numbers as the protests rage across the country: 78% said they approved of Trump’s response to the demonstrations in the latest poll, up from 67% in mid-June. Nearly nine out of 10 Democrats say they do not like the way Trump is dealing with the protests, and that has not changed over since June.
POLITICAL AGENDA OR LAW AND ORDER?
And 42% of Americans appeared to be suspicious of Trump’s motives related to his decision to send federal police into cities, saying that those agents were being deployed mostly “to further Trump’s political agenda.” Another 39% said the agents are “restoring law and order in major U.S. cities,” and the remaining 19% said they were not sure.
The response was similarly split in the suburbs, where Trump has been hoping to brand himself as a champion of public safety. Some 44% of suburban Americans said they thought the federal agents were being used for political purposes while 37% thought they were mostly there to restore law and order.
As with almost everything related to Trump, American public opinion was divided along party lines. Nationally, 73% of Democrats felt that Trump was playing politics when he ordered federal police into Portland, while 76% of Republicans said those agents are mostly there to restore law and order.
Trump’s overall popularity remains at the lowest level it has been this year, with 38% of Americans saying they approve of the president’s job performance. And Democratic candidate Joe Biden leads Trump by 9 percentage points among registered voters.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,115 American adults, including 947 registered voters, and has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 4 percentage points.
(Reporting by Chris Kahn, Editing by Soyoung Kim and Grant McCool)