Trump’s Charlottesville Response Sinks His Support Among Republicans

.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 22, 2017. Joshua Roberts/Reuters

A new poll shows President Donald Trump’s response to the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Viriginia, isn’t playing well among Republican voters, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll.

The new numbers were released early Wednesday after Trump defended his handling of the fallout from the August 12 march during a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona the night before.

Trump has been criticized for not speaking out more strongly against white supremacist groups after police said a man allied with a hard right group ran over and killed counter-protester Heather Heyer and injured 19 others in Charlottesville.

The poll shows the president’s approval slipping to 73 percent among Republican voters from 81 percent the week before. This pushed down his overall approval rating, which fell to 39 percent from 44 percent a week ago.

Other polls tracking Trump's approval rating conducted in the past week show him hovering between 35 and 43 percent approval, some of the lowest approval ratings for a president eight months into his presidency.

The Politico/Morning Consult poll of 1,987 registered voters was conducted from August 17 through August 19, tracking reaction to three separate statements and press conferences the president held to explain his position on the Charlottesville rally.

Trump doubled down in Phoenix Tuesday, calling out anti-fascist groups for violently opposing white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and members of the KKK. For 25 minutes of the rally he read out his past statements that cast blame “on many sides” for the violence.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan told a CNN town hall Monday night that some of Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville violence were “morally ambiguous.”

Read more: Trump Rally in Phoenix Gets Thumbs Up from Alt-Right White Nationalist

“Trump has never denounced the alt-right. Nor will he,” self-professed racist Richard Spencer wrote on Twitter after Trump’s speech in Phoenix early Wednesday. The alt-right is an umbrella term Spencer coined that encompases white supremcists, white nationalists, and other bigoted groups.

Both former KKK leader David Duke and Andrew Anglin, who operates the white supremacist website Daily Stormer, praised Trump’s statements after Charlottesville because they didn’t specifically target white supremacists.

A 54 percent majority of Republicans in the poll agreed that both sides were to blame for the violence compared to 64 percent of Democrats who blamed white nationalists. But a majority of Republican voters also said that Trump’s comments did more to divide the nation.

Other Republican politicians have criticized Trump’s response, including GOP Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. “It’s going to be very difficult for this president to lead if, in fact, that moral authority remains compromised,” Scott told Face the Nation on CBS Sunday.

A 58 percent majority among Republican respondents also said that they would prefer to see Vice President Mike Pence take over as the Commander-in-Chief.

Those who voted for the president are standing by him, however, with 80 percent of Trump voters supporting his job performance. Many of his supporters are ardently committed to his agenda.

Other polls sampling voter sentiment in the weeks after the Senate failed to pass a health care bill to repeal and replace Obamacare have shown an erosion in support for the president among white voters who don’t have a college degree. But the number of those peeling away from him are slim.

The white supremacist rally was held to protest a proposal to remove a statue of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee who fought for the rights of the southern states to keep slaves. Trump charged in Phoenix that removing these statutes is an attempt “to take away our history and our heritage.”

When it came to the issue of whether monuments to the Confederate Army should be removed, three-quarters of Republicans told the Politico/Morning Consult poll they should be left standing.