The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Nearly half of white Americans think Trump is racist

President Trump said "I am not a racist" Jan. 14, and blamed Democrats for the delay in passing a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

At this point in Trump’s presidency, few are surprised that large numbers of black and Latino voters believe him to be a racist — especially given his past comments about the Central Park Five and a 1970s lawsuit from the federal government alleging racial discrimination by him and his father at apartments they managed.

But a recent poll shows large numbers — nearly half — of white Americans also now believe Trump is racist.

The Associated Press reported:

Fifty-seven percent of all adults, including more than 8 in 10 blacks, three-quarters of Hispanics and nearly half of whites, said they think Trump is racist. Eighty-five percent of Democrats consider Trump racist, but just 21 percent of Republicans agree.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reported that nearly 6 in 10 — 56 percent — think Trump's policies have been bad for Hispanics and nearly half — 47 percent — think they’ve been bad for African Americans.

Why are white people so much less willing to describe Trump as racist?

People of color are often accused of using the race card too liberally. But this recent poll shows that it is not only ethnic minorities who believe that Trump’s vision of America does not appear to include the advancement of people of color.

The president has struggled with voters of color, setting the tone with the launch of his campaign on June 16, 2015:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Donald Trump’s false comments connecting Mexican immigrants and crime

The racially charged comments were followed by others during the campaign and since he took office:

These comments — and the absence of meaningful responses to policy proposals from lawmakers of color — have led to low levels of approval for Trump’s job performance from black and Latino voters, as well as the growing number of white voters.

The AP's poll was designed to draw attention to the views of black voters as Black History Month ended in February. The poll showed that more than 9 in 10 of blacks disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job, 9 in 10 think the country is headed in the wrong direction, and 3 in 4 think that the direction has worsened in the past year.

A year after America’s first black president left the White House, the Oval Office has been occupied by a person that most Americans think is racist. Any suggestion that the Obama presidency would lead to a post-racial America has at this point been proved to be mythical.

Some voters are making the case that Trump may be the most racist president the nation has seen in decades. The Fix previously wrote:

Nearly a year into Trump’s presidency, 6 in 10 Americans say his election has led to worse race relations in the United States, according to a new Pew report on the subject. And fewer than 1 in 10 — 8 percent — said Trump’s election has improved race relations, while 30 percent said it has not made a difference.

More and more polls are showing that more white Americans believe that Trump, who in part ran on white-identity politics, is a racist. But the question is: Will white voters actually do anything about it?

Critics called Trump a racist from the day he launched his campaign to Election Day, hoping that voters, including the white Americans who backed Barack Obama’s vision of change, would find Trump’s worldview appalling. But in the end, white voters — of multiple class demographics — hopped on the Trump train because of economic anxiety and their anxiousness about the changing cultural makeup of the nation.

While being called racist is not good for public relations, for the most part, it may be a characterization of Trump that he cares little about. The ongoing attack continues to come from people who have never supported him in large numbers. Trump lost the black and Latino and, obviously, the Democratic vote in the 2016 election.

And while most presidents running for reelection would hope to win over voters who did not previously support him, critics say Trump has shown no real interest in attracting voters who view the world differently than he does. He regularly attacks Democrats — and Democratic voters — and doubles down when criticized by those offended by his statements.

The voters that Trump seems to care about most are those in his base — as of now, most Republicans seem to agree with Trump’s rejection of the idea that he is racist. But Trump has to remember that the majority of voters aren’t among his base, and their view of him will matter as his party seeks to elect hundreds of lawmakers this fall whom he will need to carry out his vision of how to make America great.