Donald Trump's response to criticisms from the Muslim American parents of a fallen Army captain last week was widely rejected by Republicans and Democrats and, according to a new poll, was overwhelmingly unpopular with the broader public.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll found 12 percent of Americans approve and 73 percent disapprove of Trump's handling of the exchange with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, including 56 percent who disapprove "strongly."
Despite deep partisan divisions in the presidential contest overall, Trump's dispute with the Khans drew broad disapproval from across the political spectrum. Fully 59 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of conservatives disapprove of Trump's handling of the exchange, along with larger numbers of independents, moderates, Democrats and liberals. Fewer than one-quarter of Republicans, 23 percent, approved of Trump's response.
The reaction to Trump's comments was similarly negative across a wide range of religious and demographic groups. Nearly 8 in 10 non-white Americans disapprove of Trump's handling of the situation, as did 70 percent of whites. Among whites without a four-year college degree, a group that has been among the most supportive of Trump, two-thirds disapprove of his handling of the issue, including 44 percent who disapproved "strongly."
Disapproval of Trump on the issue eclipsed 60 percent among a wide range of religious groups, including white evangelical Protestants, white non-evangelical Protestants and white Catholics as well as those with no religious preference, who lean Democratic. The Post published additional breakdowns by group for this question and others on this page. (The survey's methodology is here.)
The dispute grew out of Khizr Khan's speech to the Democratic National Convention, where he recounted his son's life and military service before he was killed when a car exploded in Iraq. Khan derided Trump, saying he "consistently smears the character of Muslims," asking whether he had read the Constitution and saying Trump has "sacrificed nothing" to defend America. Trump responded by suggesting Khan's wife, Ghazala, was not allowed to speak at the Democratic National Convention and saying he has made sacrifices by employing thousands of people and raising money for veterans. Trump tweeted that Khan "viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC."
Americans' widespread disapproval of Trump's response mirrors the broad criticism from political leaders, particularly Republicans such as Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) also released statements supporting the Khans.
How much is the dispute affecting Trump's vote support?
Earlier in the campaign most voters had concerns about Trump's level of respect in political debates, and the Post-ABC poll shows they did not dramatically change after the debate with the Khan family.
While 79 percent now say Trump does not show enough respect for people he disagrees with and 58 percent see this as a "major problem," these figures are little changed from a Post-ABC poll in May (76 percent and 55 percent, respectively). Similarly, the percentage saying Trump is "biased against women and minorities" was 60 percent after the conventions compared to 56 percent in July, a change that is not statistically significant. Trump's overall favorable rating of 34-63 percent this month is, if anything, slightly higher than in July (31-64), though again this is not a significant shift.
At the same time, the Khan dispute fueled a focus one of voters' greatest concerns about Trump — his temperament in political debates. Two-thirds in the Post-ABC poll said Trump does not have the kind of personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively as president, and the issue is one Democrats sought to highlight repeatedly during their convention.
The episode also may have prevented Trump from capitalizing on a Republican convention that began to soften his image, and helped fuel a convention bounce for Clinton.
A poll by CNN immediately after the convention found more voters saying they would be proud to have Trump as president, that he would "unite the country and not divide it" and that he is in touch with ordinary Americans' problems. After the Democratic National Convention, CNN polling found Trump's image fell back to where he was earlier in July.
In overall vote choice, the Post-ABC poll found Trump trailed Clinton by 8 points after the conventions compared with a four point deficit before both conventions. Clinton's support among fellow Democrats grew to 92 percent from 86 percent before the conventions, as one would expect, while Trump's ticked up only one point from 82 to 83 percent.
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.