Americans Think Donald Trump Made More Progress on Terrorism Than Barack Obama Despite Far-Right Threat

Americans believe President Donald Trump did a better job combatting terrorism that President Barack Obama, according to a new Gallup poll released Monday, despite the rising threat of far-right political violence associated with the former nationalist president and his supporters.

Gallup's poll surveyed 906 adults across the country between January 21 and February 2 with a 4 percent margin of error. It found that a plurality of 44 percent of respondents think Trump has made progress in combatting terrorism, despite bipartisan concerns that the president's term was a boon for far-right extremism.

Thirty-five percent of respondents believed America had gone backwards in combatting terrorism under Trump, while 20 percent thought the country had more or less stood still.

But Trump outperformed both Obama and President George W. Bush, two presidents whose terms were dominated by America's fight against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism at home and abroad.

Of those surveyed, 40 percent believed Bush had made progress on terrorism, versus 37 percent who thought American went backwards and 20 percent who thought it stood still. Obama fared worse, with only 28 percent crediting him with progress on fighting terrorism and 49 percent believing the country had gone backwards on this front under his watch.

The poll did not differentiate between different types or terrorism or ideologies. Bush and Obama's terms were dominated by concerns about Islamic terrorism directed or inspired from abroad, but under Trump long-held fears of rising far-right white supremacist terrorism have come into mainstream focus.

The president has been accused of stochastic terrorism—inciting attacks on his political opponents without actually calling for such violence.

Mail bomb attacks on prominent liberals, a mass shooting at a newspaper office, a car ramming against counter-protesters at a white supremacist march—these attacks and others have, according to the former president's critics, been inspired or encouraged by his belligerent, threatening political style and nationalist ideology.

In September, acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, said far-right terrorism has become the "most persistent and lethal threat" to the U.S. from within the country.

Law enforcement has disrupted several far-right plots in recent months, including a plan to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Extremists and conspiracy theorists have been organizing against restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic and buoyed by Trump's baseless claims of electoral fraud to explain away his loss to President Joe Biden in November.

The president is now facing a second Senate trial, having been impeached in the House for the second time for inciting the January 6 storming of the Capitol by a far-right mob attempting to overturn the results of the November election.

Recent events have set off a civil war within the GOP, with lawmakers caught between wanting to move away from Trump's brand of anti-democratic nationalism and fearing retribution by his highly motivated base. Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, have claimed that extremism is fast becoming the norm across the aisle.

The Gallup poll shows a startling partisan divide on Trump's terrorism record, as on almost all other topics surveyed. Among Republican respondents, the net "made progress" response—those saying Trump made progress minus those who said he had lost ground—was +67 percent, compared with -37 percent among Democrats.

Boogaloo Boys protest at VIrginia Capitol building
Members of the "Boogaloo Boys," a loosely organized far-right extremist political movement whose adherents are said to seek a second American Civil War, carry their weapons near the state Capitol on January 18, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. Eze Amos/Getty Images/Getty