The good news from a CBS News poll released today is that the president’s appalling response to the domestic terrorist attack in Charlottesville is deeply unpopular with the American public as a whole. The bad news is that among the subset of voters that Trump cares about most, his base in the Republican Party, he’s doing fine.
Overall, 55 percent of the population disapproves of how Trump handled Charlottesville, and only 33 percent approve. But among Republicans, these numbers are flipped, with only 22 percent disapproving and 67 percent approving. Among Democrats, the numbers are 82 percent disapproval and 10 percent approval. Among independents, it is 53 percent disapproval and 32 percent approval.
Republicans are also the only group that gives majority support (68 percent) to Trump’s claim that “both sides” are to blame for the violence. Similarly, a majority of Democrats (70 percent) and a plurality of independent (43 percent) think Trump has increased racial divisions, something only 15 percent of Republicans believe. Republicans are the least likely, by a slim majority of 51 percent, to say the killing of Heather Heyer was an act of domestic terrorism.
These divisions shouldn’t be surprising. People see the world through a partisan prism and Republicans naturally take their cue from the leader of their party. But these numbers also create a feedback effect. As long as Trump knows that most Republicans are on board, he’ll believe he’s on the right path and continue to appease white supremacists. In doing so, he and his base are ratcheting up extremism in America.