A new poll has good news and bad news for President Trump. The good news is that his image rating has edged up a little bit. The bad news is that reviews of his controversial travel ban have gone the opposite direction.
The Quinnipiac poll shows Trump's favorable/unfavorable split at 42/52 — slightly better than the 39/52 it showed two weeks ago. But even as his image hasn't eroded, his signature and controversial executive order has somewhat.
Quinnipiac has polled the travel ban three times: In late November, January and today. And while in both previous polls the general concept had more supporters than opponents, the new poll shows it's now underwater: 44 percent support and 50 percent opposition. That six-point gap is reversed from a month ago, when it was favored 48-42.
The new poll echoes pretty much everything we've seen since the travel ban was signed and implemented. A CNN poll showed people opposed it 53-47 percent. CBS showed it trailing 51-45. And Gallup had it 55-42 for the opposition. That's very consistent, no matter what Trump says about the polls.
Part of the reason people have come to oppose it could certainly be the rocky rollout. Whatever you think of the actual policy, its implementation had even many Republicans speaking out publicly. And separately, the order has legal problems, with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday reviewing a judge's decision to temporarily halt it.
But here's another possible reason the ban isn't earning support: The timing.
Trump has been wielding a bullhorn to warn about the imminent threat of radical Islamic terrorism coming across the border in recent months. But Americans are actually less concerned than they've been in years about domestic terrorism. And the kind of terrorism they most fear has nothing to do with immigration or refugees; it's homegrown extremists.
The Q poll shows just 27 percent of people believe it is “very likely” there will be a terrorist attack in the United States in the immediate future. That's down from 47 percent in December 2015 — the last time this issue was polled. And it's the lowest it's been in Quinnipiac polling since May 2011 — a span of six polls.
That 47 percent, it bears noting, came weeks after the terrorist attacks in Paris and then San Bernardino, Calif. So it's understandable that fears about domestic terrorism were heightened at the time.
But that's also kind of the point: Fear of terrorism is much more real at some points than others. And for whatever reason, right now is not one of those points when Americans are hugely worried about domestic terrorism. The only time they've been less worried in the last decade, in fact, was after the killing of Osama bin Laden — another example of how current events impact these fears.
But wait a minute, Trump supporters might say, perhaps that is because of Trump! Maybe people suddenly feel safe because he's president and will finally get tough on terrorism. Perhaps his travel ban is already putting fears to rest.
It's possible, but it's also true that people don't seem to sympathize with Trump's view that terrorists could be streaming into the United States through our immigration and refugee admittance programs. The Q poll asked whether people feared Syrian refugees, radicalized visitors or “homegrown jihadists” the most, and 56 percent chose the last option — vs. 31 percent combined for Syrian refugees and other outsiders entering the United States.
That suggests that Trump's travel ban was, in some ways, a solution in search of a problem — at least in the minds of many Americans. And that may be tempering support amid a rough rollout process.
To be clear: This is not a hugely unpopular policy. Americans are pretty split on it right now, actually, with Republicans in favor (84-11) and Democrats opposed (84-10). Independents are slightly against, 53-40.
But through poor implementation, timing and over-the-top messaging — from the original “Muslim ban” to the strong rhetoric Trump has used more recently — it seems to have turned a potentially popular idea into something more divisive and ill-received.