The poll number smacks you right in the face: 57% of Americans believe President Donald Trump is a racist, according to new data from a national AP-NORC poll.
That number comes in the wake of a year in which Trump tried to blame both sides for the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, waged an extensive effort to call into question the patriotism of the (largely black) NFL players who refused to stand for the National Anthem and asked why the United States was taking in immigrants from “shithole” countries in Africa.
And it comes in spite of Trump’s oft-repeated assertion that he is the “least racist person” in the country and possibly in the world.
It’s a striking finding. Six in 10 people believe that the President of the United States harbors racist views.
It’s 2018! I mean, wow. Right?
Not so fast, according to CNN polling boss Jenn Agiesta who made this great point – ahem – to me earlier today: It’s possible that almost six in 10 people believe Trump is truly a racist, but it’s also possible that those people just don’t like Trump at all and are willing to agree to any and every very negative thing a pollster asks about him.
As Jenn rightly pointed out, the number of people who say Trump is a racist is broadly consistent with the number of people who disapprove of Trump’s performance in office, who say he’s interfered with the Russia investigation and who believe the women alleging Trump sexually harassed them.
That doesn’t mean that a big chunk of the public – particularly African-Americans and Hispanics – don’t truly believe Trump holds racist views. They do; eight in 10 blacks and three-quarters of Latinos in the AP-NORC poll said they thought Trump was racist.
What it might mean, however, is that almost any question about Trump now – his handling of policies, his racial views, his reaction to the Russian investigation – boils down to the same gut reaction: Do you like or not like Trump?
The Point: Our politics have been getting more and more polarized for decades now. In Trump, our polarization has reached maximum capacity. How you feel about virtually anything depends entirely on how you feel about the President of the United States.