In an interview with Fox News this week, President Trump called himself a uniter. Host Maria Bartiromo asked Trump: “Do you feel a responsibility as president to bring the nation together?”
“I do, I do," Trump replied. "And I think I am, in a certain way, bringing it together. I can tell you that a big portion of this nation is united like it’s never been united before.”
But there’s evidence that the country is deeply divided along partisan lines.
An Oct. 2018 poll from the Wall Street Journal found that 8 of 10 people polled believed the country is “mainly” or “totally” divided. Eighty-five percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans said the United States is divided, according to the poll. When asked why the country was divided, respondents answered along party lines as well. Republicans blamed “Barack Obama,” “Liberals,” “Democrats” and “The Media.” Democrats named “Donald Trump,” “The Republican Party” and “The Media” among the top causes.
A Pew poll from this month found that about half of Americans surveyed worry about the way the government in Washington works, and they believe partisanship will only get worse. Sixty-five percent of adults say the U.S. will be “more politically divided in 2050 than it is today.”
Polling shows a majority of Americans blame President Trump for contributing to the divisiveness. A 2018 Quinnipiac poll found that nearly 60 percent believe Trump has done more to divide the country than to unite it. A 2017 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that many Americans — 66 percent — say Trump is the most divisive president in recent history.
Polling has also shown that Democrats and Republicans are divided on key issues like immigration, health care and on Trump’s conduct in office. A February Washington Post poll found that 86 percent of Democrats say they’re more likely to trust Robert S. Mueller III’s findings on whether Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign. Just 17 percent of Republicans said the same.
A George Washington University poll from December 2018 found that 80 percent of Republicans saw immigration and terrorism as the biggest issues facing the country. Just 41 percent of Democrats agreed.
The Washington Post’s Philip Bump recently zoomed in on one major example of division: how Americans from different political parties view the news media. Trump attacks the media regularly, deriding unflattering coverage as “fake news.” (He even attacked his favorite network, Fox, as “fake news” in his interview with Bartiromo after she asked him about his attacks on the late senator John McCain (R.-Ariz.).
Data from the national General Social Survey released this week show those attacks are working with Trump’s base. More than two-thirds of Republicans say they have “hardly any” confidence in the media, a figure that has jumped nearly 20 points since 2014. Only a quarter of Democrats say the same thing.
In his interview with Bartiromo, Trump pointed to the economy as proof of his unifying abilities.
“You look at our economy. You look at jobs. You look at African American — the lowest in the history of our country — unemployment numbers, the best numbers they’ve ever had. Hispanic. You look at Asian," he said. "You look at women, the best in 65 years, best numbers in 65 years.”
Trump is right that unemployment rates for black and Hispanic Americans hit record lows during his presidency. But unemployment among those groups has been falling since 2010. And unemployment numbers for these groups remain higher than those for white Americans.
It is not totally clear what the economy has to do with the question of unity anyway. After all, even with strong economic numbers, a majority of Americans say the president is sowing discord, even as he says otherwise.