2020-06-10 18:31:21 UTC
(CNN) One of the defining traits of President Donald Trump's time in office
has been the consistency of his poll numbers.
No matter what he said, did or tweeted, his numbers stayed steady. Somewhere
between 40-45% approved of the job he was doing while 50-55% disapproved.
Which is why what Gallup reported in its latest tracking poll, released on
Wednesday morning, is so striking.
Trump's job approval in the new Gallup data is at 39%, which is bad but not the
big story. That big story is the fact that Trump's new numbers represent a
double-digit tumble from a Gallup poll just two weeks ago in which his approval
stood at 49%.
That's a stunning dip. And it's across the board. He's down 7 points in approval
among Republicans and independents and 9 points among Democrats. And it all
seems tied to the way in which Trump reacted to the death of George Floyd while
in police custody and the protests that have broken out nationwide in its
Writes Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones:
"Trump's comments and actions in response to the protests last week, including a
vow to send U.S. military troops to cities to quell violent protests, were
controversial. The administration was widely criticized after police in
Washington, D.C., used chemical irritants to disperse peaceful protestors from
an area shortly before the president posed for photos in front of a nearby
Floyd was killed on May 25 in Minneapolis. This latest Gallup poll was in the
field from May 28 - June 4, meaning it is very likely that it caught people at
the peak of their outrage, frustration, anger and fear about the issue of police
brutality and Trump's, um, uneven handling of the matter.
But Gallup's numbers are far from an outlier. The latest CNN poll, released
earlier this week, put Trump's approval at 38% -- down from 45% in May. An
NPR/PBS/Marist poll put Trump's job approval at 42%. (Those national numbers are
reflected in swing state polling too. Recent polls in Ohio, Arizona, Texas and
Michigan, among others, show significant problems for Trump in a head-to-head
matchup with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.)
Dig into the CNN poll and there's even more evidence of how Floyd's death and
Trump's response to it have hurt Trump. Badly.
More than 4 in 10 voters (42%) said that race relations would be "extremely"
important in determining their vote for president in the fall. That's a huge
number given that race relations as a or the deciding factor in voters' minds
has long trailed things like the economy and health care by large margins. Asked
which candidate they trusted more to handle race relations in America, Biden
took 63% to 31% for Trump.
What Floyd's death and the ensuing protests have done then is force the
conversation about race to the top of lots and lots of peoples' minds who, even
a few weeks ago, weren't really thinking about it. And what they've found when
they started thinking a lot about it is that Trump is uniquely unsuited to
solving a problem like systemic racism.
It's not just that Trump has raised questions about the motives of protesters or
that he has insisted that the police need to "dominate" the streets. It's that
he has a long history -- dating back to his days as a real estate tycoon -- of
questionable behavior and statements when it comes to race.
* In the wake of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017
that left a counter-protester dead, Trump insisted that "there is blame on both
* Trump mocked the intelligence of LeBron James and CNN's Don Lemon, both of
whom are black.
* Trump reportedly asked why the US was allowing in immigrants from "sh*thole
countries" in Africa.
* Trump tweeted that four congresswomen of color should "go back and help fix
the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." Three of the
four women were born in the United States. The fourth is a naturalized American
* Trump called the late Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings' (D) majority-black,
Baltimore district a "rat and rodent infested mess" and a "very dangerous &
* Prior to running for president, Trump championed a conspiracy theory that
Barack Obama was not born in the United States and therefore was not eligible to
There's more of this stuff. Lots more. And it all points to a willingness on
behalf of Trump to weaponize race when it fits his business or political
interests. And he has repeatedly done so with little regard for the ways in
which his words and actions -- particularly as president -- influence the ways
in which people of color are treated in America.
Trump, seeing the same poll numbers that we are, convened a meeting of his
senior campaign staff last week in Washington and is reportedly contemplating a
speech aimed at addressing the race issue.
The polling data cited above suggests such an address will not work. Trump is
too damaged a messenger on issues of race. Which means that the longer people
consider race and race relations as a voting issue, the worse these polls will
continue to be for Trump.
His only hope is that the national conversation moves on -- ideally, for him, to
better economic numbers following the nationwide coronavirus shutdown.