One out of every three Washingtonians has marched in protest against President Trump or his policies at least once since January, making the District the capital of national dissent, a new Washington Post poll finds.
But a clear racial divide exists among those who have attended the demonstrations since Trump took office, starting with the Women’s March on Washington the day after his inauguration and continuing through the winter and spring with marches against the president’s policies on climate change, health care, immigration and a host of other issues.
According to the Post poll, 53 percent of white residents participated in a march or demonstration in opposition to Trump’s policies since the start of the year, compared with 16 percent of African Americans and 36 percent of Hispanics and those of other racial and ethnic groups.
The overwhelmingly African American residents of Wards 7 and 8 are the city’s least likely to protest Trump, with only 12 percent saying they had. By contrast, 54 percent of residents in overwhelmingly white Wards 1 and 3 in Northwest Washington say they have protested the president.
High-income residents are among the most likely Trump protesters this year.
Yet whether they rally outside the U.S. Capitol or remain at home, a majority of all Washingtonians — 54 percent — believe that Trump has changed the city at least “some” or “a lot.”
Women are about twice as likely as men to say that Trump has altered the city “a lot,” according to the poll conducted June 15-18 among a random sample of 901 D.C. residents. It carries a four-point margin of sampling error.
“Given the ups and downs of the first five months, I’m surprised that we’re not dead yet,” said Sarah Ronnebaum, 37, a white health-care researcher who lives on Capitol Hill. She attended the Women’s March, the March for Science and a protest against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Because the District has no vote in Congress, “the least I can do is show up,” Ronnebaum said.
She said she fears that Trump’s imprint will repel the waves of young newcomers who were drawn to Washington by President Barack Obama.
“At this point, I have trouble imagining the young person who thinks the government has their best interests in mind and is looking out for the best interests of the nation,” Ronnebaum said. “So many people who wanted to work for Obama will not be sustained under Trump.”
Mark Woodard, a black hospital technician who lives in Kingman Park in Northeast, said he has not felt compelled to protest because his life has not changed much under the new administration.
“I’m kind of waiting to see — he hasn’t made an impact yet,” Woodard said. “I’m able to go to my job; my benefits are fine. He’s not doing anything to affect me, so I’m not going to support any protests.”
Justina Jackson, 28, a black assistant pastry chef in Brookland who voted for Hillary Clinton, said that she is accustomed to being disappointed in government, no matter which party is in the White House, and that Trump is no different.
“I’m used to stuff not going my way,” she said. “There’s always some kind of obstacle I have to overcome just because I’m a young African American female. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who are upset about Trump.”
The District is an overwhelmingly Democratic city in which more than 90 percent of the electorate voted for Clinton over Trump in November. Since the election, many residents say, a sense of unease and even despondency has pervaded the city — and not just because the new resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a Republican.
Trump and his advisers have also alienated Washingtonians with an often abrasive, freewheeling style that challenges more genteel traditions embedded in the city’s political culture.
“It seems a lot harsher; it feels a lot meaner; it feels more like facts don’t matter anymore,” said Keith Krueger, 60, who is white, lives in Northwest and runs an educational nonprofit. He attended the Women’s March — a march that drew criticism from some African Americans in the early planning stages because the initial organizers were all white — and “one of the environmental ones”; he could not recall which one.
“Most of the people I know are upset about the direction of the country. Everything seems to be a whiplash from the Obama years.”
The dissatisfaction has driven Washingtonians to join the resistance to the president’s policies at a rate far higher than in other parts of the country. A Fox News poll conducted in mid-February found that 14 percent of registered voters nationwide had participated in a march or demonstration since the election in November, far less than the 35 percent of D.C. registered voters who have protested between the beginning of the year and June.
The Post poll finds that 21 percent of anti-Trump protesters from the District were black, while 63 percent were white. The city’s adult population is 45 percent black and 39 percent white.
Certainly, proximity has something to do with participation. It is relatively easy for Washingtonians to attend a weekend march on the Mall. In some circles, protests have become the new Saturday routine or weekday lunch break. The day after Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey, an impromptu gathering outside the White House attracted office workers who held aloft signs made with manila envelopes and other office supplies.
Still, there’s something more at play than convenience.
“At a certain point, when you have 100,000, 300,000 or a million people in the streets, you can’t pretend it’s a few dissident voices from the left,” said Noah Klose, 23, a recent graduate of Earlham College in Indiana who lives in Northwest and joined the Women’s March as well as protests against Trump’s immigration policies and the ban on travelers from some Muslim-majority countries. “A protest of 100 doesn’t mean anything, but a protest of 100,000 has a certain gravitas.”
“People I grew up with who never showed political opinions are becoming much more active,” said Klose, who is white. “People are talking about health care, and some of it’s because we never had to worry about it before.”
African American respondents interviewed said they were less inclined to march, even if they disagreed with Trump.
Terrell Dobey, 27, an African American deliveryman who lives in Southeast, said he has “no time” or inclination to participate in demonstrations, even though he said he “felt more comfortable with Obama being president.”
“It brings negative energy to D.C. — it causes an uproar, and it’s not good for the city,” Dobey said. “I can’t risk putting myself in jeopardy. I’m not willing to get pepper-sprayed or shot or anything like that.”
Raynard Styles, 47, an African American maintenance worker who lives in Southwest, said he voted for Trump because “we needed a change; we needed to fire everybody.” But he questions the wisdom of his vote and whether it was fueled by “wishful thinking, rose-colored glasses.”
Nevertheless, Styles said, he would never consider attending an anti-Trump protest even if “I disagree with him. Because he’s still my president, and I’m an American first.”
The Post survey finds that about half of the District’s college graduates and residents from households with incomes exceeding $100,000 demonstrated against Trump. By contrast, 20 percent of residents without college degrees and 16 percent of those earning under $50,000 attended a march to protest the president.
When asked to choose from four Trump policies that would most affect the District, 41 percent of residents selected budget cuts to Medicaid and social-safety-net services. About a quarter said the overhaul of the Affordable Care Act, 13 percent cited increased deportations of undocumented immigrants, and 11 percent said increased defense spending.
Daniel Giglio, 48, a Hispanic interpreter who lives in Mount Pleasant in Northwest, said he is most focused on Trump’s quest to overhaul health care. But he is also concerned about “the lack of access that the press and the people have to Trump.”
“I’m not a hugely political person, but I pay much more attention to the issues now,” Giglio said, adding that he and his partner often find themselves talking about Trump and being “taken aback by his comments” but that they have not attended protests. “We give money to the ACLU,” he said. “Maybe that’s how we make our contribution.”
Marcus Murchison, 44, an African American budget analyst who works for the federal government, said it is too soon to measure the full impact of Trump’s policy decisions, although he understands that many Washingtonians are fearful, as if there were a “tornado coming up the coast.”
Instead of attending marches, Murchison, who lives in the Hillcrest neighborhood in Southeast, said he finds it more productive to express himself on social media and at small gatherings.
“I do believe demonstrations serve a purpose, but I’m leaving that to younger people,” he said. “I need to speak up in my own circles. You have to start with your friends and family and bring another perspective.”
Scott Clement contributed to this report.