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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Galston: Trump’s Charlottesville response falls flat with public, working-class base

The following article by William A. Galston, Ezra K. Zilkha Chair and Senior Fellow – Governance Studies at Brookings and author of  Public Matters: Politics, Policy, and Religion in the 21st Century, is cross-posted from Brookings:

An NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist poll released on August 16contained bad news for President Trump. Only 31 percent of registered voters believe that his response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, was strong enough, compared to 51 percent who think that it was not.

A CBS News poll released the next day continued the drumbeat, with a new twist: the more the president reacts, the deeper the hole he is digging for himself. Among respondents surveyed before Mr. Trump’s impromptu news conference on Tuesday, 35 percent approved of his response and 52 percent disapproved, a negative margin of 17 points. Among those surveyed after the news conference, approval fell slightly, disapproval rose sharply, and his negative margin widened to 25 points.

In both surveys, reaction to the president divided along partisan lines, with a majority of Republicans supporting the president and majorities of Democrats and Independents opposed. But there was a surprise that should give the rally-the-base strategists in the White House pause: although 59 percent of Republican respondents in the NPR/PBS/Marist poll felt that that Mr. Trump’s Charlottesville response was strong enough, just 32 percent of white working-class voters—the linchpin of Mr. Trump’s upset victory last November—agreed.


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