Even before President Donald Trump’s racist tweets toward four Democratic congresswomen of color, Americans considered race relations in the United States to be generally bad — and said that Trump has been making them worse.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the congresswomen should go back to the “broken and crime infested” countries they came from, despite the fact that all are American citizens and three were born in the U.S.
Since his election, polling has shown Americans wary of Trump when it comes to race. But views of the president, racism in the U.S. and what defines American culture vary significantly based on political alignment.
What polls show:
RACE RELATIONS IN THE TRUMP ERA
In January, a CBS News poll found nearly 6 in 10 Americans saying race relations in the country are generally bad.
It wasn’t always that way. Positive views of the state of race relations in the country peaked with President Barack Obama’s inauguration, after which 66% of Americans said race relations were generally good in an April 2009 CBS News/New York Times poll. But views started to sour in 2014 following a number of high-profile shootings of black men by police officers and have continued to be more negative than positive in the Trump era.
And Americans think Trump is contributing to the problem. A Pew Research Center poll earlier this year showed 56% of Americans saying Trump has made race relations worse.
Americans gave similarly poor assessments of the president’s impact on specific racial, ethnic and religious minorities. Nearly 6 in 10 considered Trump’s actions to be bad for Hispanics and Muslims, and about half said they were bad for African Americans, according to a February 2018 poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research .
That poll also found that 57% of Americans considered Trump to be racist.
RACE AS A POLITICAL FAULT LINE
Polls show stark differences in assessments of the state of race relations and Trump’s impact by party identification, along with racial and ethnic identity and educational attainment.
In Pew’s poll, fully 84% of Democrats said Trump has worsened race relations, while only about 2 in 10 Republicans agreed. About a third of Republicans said Trump has made progress toward improving race relations, while a quarter said he has tried but failed.
Majorities of Americans who are black, Hispanic and Asian said Trump has made race relations worse, compared with about half of white Americans. Among white Americans, views diverged by education — 64% of whites with a college degree think Trump has worsened race relations, compared with 41% of those without.
Democrats in Congress immediately called out the president’s comments on Sunday as racist and divisive, while many Republicans have remained silent.
Polling shows Democratic and Republican Americans fundamentally disagree on the way people should approach offensive language in the country.
Eighty-two percent of Republicans feel that too many people are easily offended over language today, according to a poll conducted in May by Pew Research Center , compared with about half as many Democrats who said the same. A majority of Democrats said people need to be more careful with their language.
Since Trump’s election, most Americans think it has become more common for people to express racist views, and 45% said it has become more acceptable as well, according to Pew’s February poll.
Majorities of Democrats said it has become both more common and more acceptable. Among Republicans, 42% said it has become more common and 22% said it has become more acceptable.
DIVERGING VIEWS OF AMERICA’S IDENTITY
Throughout his presidency, Trump has stoked racial and ethnic division building on his campaign promise to secure the border and country. In 2017, Trump instituted a travel ban restricting entry into the U.S. for people from five predominantly Muslim countries. Earlier this year, the president declared a national emergency to appropriate billions of dollars in funds from government agencies to expand the U.S.-Mexico border wall. And most recently, Trump moved on Monday to halt protections for most Central American asylum seekers.
Trump’s response to the firestorm signaled that he thinks it’s a winning stance for him. “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump said.
In an AP-NORC poll from February 2017 , half of Americans said the mixing of culture and values from around the world is an important part of America’s identity. Fewer — about a third — said the same of a culture established by early European immigrants.
But partisans were divided over these aspects of the nation’s identity. Nearly half of Republicans, but just about a quarter of Democrats, saw the culture of early European immigrants as important. By comparison, about two-thirds of Democrats, and about a third of Republicans, considered the mixing of world cultures important to the country’s identity.
The AP-NORC poll also found 57% of Americans saying that the U.S. should be a country with an essential culture that immigrants adopt when they come. Eight in 10 Republicans preferred immigrants to the U.S. adapt to an American culture, though a similar share said they thought recent immigrants have not done so.