Both President Trump and the news media are seen by nearly half of American voters as encouraging politically motivated violence, with partisans taking predictable sides in the wake of recent attacks, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.
The poll finds that 49 percent of registered voters say Trump, in the way he speaks, encourages politically motivated violence. Almost as many — 47 percent — say the media encourage politically motivated violence in the way they report the news. And 19 percent say Trump is discouraging violence while 15 percent say the same of the news media; about 3 in 10 say both are neither encouraging nor discouraging violence.
As is often the case, partisans are nearly complete opposites in the poll. A 76 percent majority of Democrats say Trump is encouraging politically motivated violence while 69 percent of Republicans say the same about the news media in the way they report the news. Among political independents, roughly half see Trump and the media alike as encouraging political violence.
A separate question finds 69 percent of voters saying that “reducing political divisions between people and groups in this country” is a very important issue in their vote for Congress or one of the most important issues. Democrats have a significant advantage on this issue, with 46 percent saying they trust them more to reduce political divisions, compared with 31 percent who trust Republicans more. A sizable 17 percent minority of voters volunteer that “neither” party is more trustworthy in reducing divisions between people and groups in the United States, a view that peaks at 25 percent among political independents.
The survey was conducted shortly after a mass shooter killed 11 worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue and another person mailed possible package bombs to prominent critics of Trump. Critics have blamed Trump for stoking anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and broader racial and political divisions that might have inspired the attacks. Trump denounced the attacks and rejected claims that he is responsible for fostering an environment that encourages them, calling for national unity and blaming anger in society on “purposely false and inaccurate reporting in the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News.”
The Post-ABC poll finds that while almost half of voters believe that Trump’s rhetoric and media coverage are encouraging violence, 16 percent fault both Trump and the media. Thirty-three percent of voters say Trump, but not the media, is encouraging violence. And 32 percent say the media, not Trump, are encouraging violence. The rest of the respondents say that neither is encouraging violence, or they have no opinion.
On the broader question of reducing the nation’s divisions, voters largely side with their own party, though Democrats are more united than Republicans. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats, 87 percent, trust their party more to reduce divisions between people and groups in the United States, while 73 percent of Republicans trust the GOP. A quarter of independents trust neither party, while 41 percent trust Democrats and 24 percent trust Republicans more.
Despite deep partisan divisions, the poll finds a break from the partisan seesaw in whether voters see Trump and the media “discouraging” politically motivated violence. Just over 3 in 10 Republicans, 31 percent, say Trump is discouraging violence, compared with 16 percent of independents and 13 percent of Democrats. But fewer than 2 in 10 Democrats (19 percent) say the same about the media, dipping further to 14 percent among both Republicans and independents.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted via cellphone and landline telephone Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 among 1,041 registered voters and carries an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.