This article has been updated.
Late on a busy news day Wednesday, Fox News published new polling evaluating President Trump’s approval and Americans’ views of his presidency. More than half of Americans approve of his handling of the economy, helping push his job approval to 46 percent — near the upper end of where he’s been.
The poll covered subjects including reactions to Trump’s tweets last week in which he told four nonwhite Democratic members of Congress to “go back” to where they came from. It’s the first time a major pollster has asked people’s opinions about that incident — and the results suggest that Americans largely believed the tweets went too far.
Asked whether the tweets were either an acceptable political attack or over the line, most respondents said that they were the latter. Black and nonwhite respondents were more likely than whites to say that the attacks went too far. A majority of Republicans and of Trump voters, on the other hand, said that the attacks were acceptable.
Within those groups, though, there were divides. White women were much less likely to call the attacks acceptable than were white men, and Republican women were less likely to call them acceptable than Republican men. There was no difference in views among white men with or without a college degree, but white women with a degree were less likely to view the attacks as acceptable than white women without a degree.
It’s worth noting again how partisanship and race overlap in staticky ways here. The Republican Party is much more densely white than the Democratic Party. Divisions along party lines overlap with divisions along racial lines, and issues where there are divides by race often become issues where there is a divide by party. The direction of the arrow can often be hard to determine. Are Republicans more likely to view Trump’s attacks as acceptable because they’re more likely to be white or because they’re more likely to be loyal to their party?
The Fox poll also asked respondents directly whether they thought the “go back” tweets were racist. Most said they were, including half of white respondents. Republicans and Trump voters generally said they weren’t — though even about a fifth of those who supported him in 2016 said the tweets were racist.
That overlaps with a detail that’s buried a bit in the poll. Fox asked a question in this new poll that it also asked in August 2017, shortly after the violence in Charlottesville: Does Trump respect racial minorities?
Most respondents said he doesn’t, with Democrats and independents seeing Trump’s views on race less favorably than Republicans or other Trump supporters. But since 2017, even Trump’s base is more skeptical about his views on race. Among Republicans, the density of those who say he respects racial minorities fell 14 points over the past two years. Less than two-thirds of evangelicals now think Trump respects minorities; nearly three-quarters did two years ago.
Evangelicals also overwhelmingly approve of the job Trump is doing, as do Republicans. Nearly 9 in 10 Republicans approve of Trump’s performance as president, even though a fifth don’t think he respects racial minorities. Many Americans clearly see those two questions as reflecting very different, nonoverlapping things.
Again, this poll is the first live-caller poll to ask about the tweets that drove much of last week’s political conversation. That most Americans see Trump’s tweets as racist and that Republican support for Trump’s racial views has dropped is an interesting finding.
But it doesn’t appear to have been considered particularly newsworthy by Fox News itself. A review of closed-captions from Wednesday captured by the Internet Archive and a search of Fox content on the site TVEyes turned up several mentions of the poll itself on air during Wednesday’s primetime hours and on Thursday morning — but none of its findings on Trump’s tweets or his views on race.
The network’s morning show “Fox & Friends” did cover the good approval numbers for Trump and the positive views of the economy. That earned a shout-out from the show’s biggest fan, sitting in his big white house in Washington.
But the show didn’t then delve into the results dealing with Trump’s tweets. Instead, it transitioned to another story entirely: A resurfaced video from February of last year in which Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) points out that white men kill more people than terrorists.
Omar, of course, was one of the targets of Trump’s racist tweets.
A bit over an hour after this article was published, Fox first covered the poll results. A bit later in the day, the network invited White House adviser Kellyanne Conway to comment on the results -- in the context of Omar describing Trump as racist.
Conway responded first by attacking Omar and then, when prompted, by criticizing the four women that Trump had originally targeted.
“They may not like the tweet,” Conway said of Republicans who said Trump crossed the line, “but they love the fact that this president is presiding over the greatest economy. That he stands up for the flag, the military, the veterans.”
“Ah,” Fox News host Harris Faulkner replied. “I got it.”