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Poll: Most disapprove of Trump on race relations

By Russell Contreras and Deepti Hajela
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Large majorities of black and Latino Americans think Donald Trump’s actions as president have made things worse for people like them, and about two-thirds of Americans overall disapprove of how he’s handling race relations, according to a new poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

About half of all Americans think Trump’s actions have been bad for African Americans, Muslims and women, and slightly more than half say they’ve been bad for Hispanics.

Trump’s 33% approval rating on handling race relations makes that one of his worst issues in recent AP-NORC polls. That stands in stark contrast to his handling of the economy: About half say they approve of his handling of that issue, while views of current economic conditions continue to be rosy amid robust employment numbers and a strong stock market.

Four in 10 Americans said they approve of Trump overall, according to the poll, conducted before the release of a rough transcript of a phone call showing Trump prodded the president of Ukraine to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that she would launch a formal impeachment inquiry.

The poll provides a bleak assessment of how the nation views Trump on race issues as he runs for a second term and repeatedly boasts of his popularity among African Americans and Latinos. Trump has consistently said his economic policies have been good for African Americans and other people of color.

But the poll shows few black Americans think that’s true. Just 4% say they think Trump’s actions have been good for African Americans in general, while 81% think he’s made things worse. Similar shares of black Americans think Trump has been bad for Hispanics, Muslims and women.

“He speaks nothing but hate rhetoric,” said Chris Smith, 38, an African American information technology worker in Columbia, Tennessee, who considers himself independent but leans Democratic. “If the leader of this country is free to speak like that, there’s going to be people who think it’s OK to speak like that.”

“He’s making people live their life in fear,” Smith said.

Trump has drawn widespread condemnation for racist rhetoric throughout his presidency. He’s warned of an “invasion” at the southern border, posted racist tweets about four women of color in Congress and attacked Democratic U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ largely black district as a “rat and rodent infested mess.” He’s showered praise on Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, a slaveowner who fought to protect the institution of slavery during the U.S. Civil War, and said there were “very fine people on both sides ” of clashes between white nationalists and counterprotesters. But he has claimed he doesn’t have a “racist bone” in his body.

The poll comes weeks after a suspected gunman, who is white, apparently wrote an anti-Hispanic rant before opening fire in El Paso, Texas, with an AK-47-style rifle on Walmart shoppers, many of them Latino. Some blamed Trump’s rhetoric for inciting the gunman.

Simon Wey, 54, a Nigerian immigrant who lives in Houston and is a registered Republican, said the president’s rhetoric on migrants makes him feel uncomfortable.

“I think some of his immigration policies have been hurtful to countries with large minority populations,” Wey said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty now.”

Sixty-nine percent of Latinos think Trump’s actions have been bad for Hispanics generally, while 19% think they’ve been good. Majorities of Latinos also think Trump’s actions have been bad for African Americans, Muslims and women.

“It’s his attitude. He just has this real cocky way about him,” said Rose Haway, a 62-year-old Hispanic woman who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “It’s what he says in his speeches and the way he’s treated migrant children. I’m appalled.”

Haway also pointed to the Republican president’s rhetoric about his desire to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as especially hurtful.

Among white Americans, about a third think Trump’s actions have been good for black Americans, women and Hispanics, while about a quarter think they have been good for Muslims. Forty-seven percent think Trump’s actions have been bad for Hispanics, 44% say they’ve been bad for Muslims and 39% say they’ve been bad for women and black Americans.

Shane Chessey, a white Republican from Pittsburgh, lauded Trump’s performance on the economy and thinks critiques of the president as racist or sexist are overblown, even as he acknowledges the president’s language sometimes comes across as “crass.”

“I think he’s trying to bring this country up together,” said Chessey, 54. “Everybody has a fair opportunity to make it in this country.”

Among Republicans, about 6 in 10 say they think Trump has been good for women, Latinos and black Americans. Fewer, 4 in 10, think his actions have been good for Muslims. No more than 2 in 10 Republicans think Trump’s actions have been bad for any of the groups asked about in the poll.

The share of Republicans saying Trump’s actions have been good for each group has increased since an AP-NORC poll conducted in February 2018. In that poll, about half said Trump’s actions had been good for African Americans and women and about 4 in 10 said they’d been good for Latinos, while about 3 in 10 said they’d been good for Muslims.

Large majorities of Democrats think Trump’s actions as president have been bad for black, Hispanic and Muslim Americans and for women.

The AP-NORC poll of 1,286 adults was conducted Sept. 20-23 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later were interviewed online or by phone.

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