CNN —  

A new Quinnipiac University poll has a striking result: 49% of people said they believe President Donald Trump to be a racist while 47% believe he is not.

Pause and digest that: Half the country – HALF – thinks the elected President of the United States harbors racist views.

That’s a remarkable finding. Full stop.

What explains it? No one thing.

Here are the two most obvious options.

1. This question, like all questions tied to Trump, is effectively a measure of whether you love or hate the President. So, 86% of Republicans say Trump isn’t a racist and 86% of Democrats say he is. Independents, who view Trump slightly more negatively than positively overall, have similar view on whether he is a racist: 50% say he is, 44% say he is not.

The “racist” numbers are not a direct facsimile of Trump’s overall approval numbers, of course. More people feel unfavorably about Trump’s job performance (55%) than say he is a racist (49%). But it’s close.

2. Trump has repeatedly played with racist and xenophobic language and sentiments – from suggesting Mexico is sending rapists and criminals to the United States to arguing the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville was a “both sides” issue to suggesting African-American Rep. Maxine Waters is a “very low IQ individual.”

When you dabble in casual racism – whether purposely or accidentally (and it’s hard to know which one Trump is doing each time), some decent-sized chunk of people are going to believe that you are – wait for it – a racist.

Trump’s response to the consistent finding that half the country believes him to be a racist – Quinnipiac found 49% saying that of Trump back in February – is to not only insist that he isn’t a racist but, in typical Trumpian overstatement, that he is the least racist person in the world.

A few examples:

  • “No, no, I’m not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you.”
  • “Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person.”
  • “I am the least racist person that you have ever met.”

Actions, of course, speak louder than words. And Trump’s actions, at a minimum, raise questions about his views on race.

Trump may not care about these findings – which aren’t a one-off, but rather a consistent sign that half the country feels this way. Why might he not care? Because 86% of Republicans believe he is not a racist and even higher numbers approve of him. And Trump has run a base-focused presidency from beginning to end.

Of course, there are some issues that should transcend mere partisan calculation. It is an inarguably bad thing – no matter which party you identify with – for one half of the country to think the nation’s top elected leader is a racist.

Trump may not care. But he should. He very much should.