Trump's Law and Order Rhetoric, His Election Gambit, Is Making Unrest Worse: Poll

President Donald Trump has toughened his rhetoric on cities experiencing unrest during the wave of protests, hoping to make law and order the definitive issue in the 2020 election, but a new poll suggests this hardline approach may not be working.

Some 55 percent of Americans believe what Trump has said about the protests happening in parts of the country "makes the situation worse," a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released on Friday shows.

Just 13 percent said Trump's comments on the unrest make the situation better and 29 percent did not think they had much of an effect either way.

For Democratic nominee Joe Biden, 22 percent said his comments about the protests made the situation better, 26 percent thought his words made it worse, and 49 percent did not think his rhetoric made any difference.

Conducted between September 2 to September 3, the poll surveyed 709 adults with small oversamples among Black and Hispanic respondents. The margin of sampling error on the survey was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

"Americans know full well that President Trump is the law and order president and that Joe Biden's actions and policies prove that he is a socialist who is sympathetic to his liberal mob of supporters rioting in our streets. Why else would Biden be spending $45 million in just one week to try and counter those facts," Ken Farnaso, deputy national press secretary for the Trump Campaign, said.

The president is presenting himself as a law and order candidate and portraying Biden as weak on crime and disorder. Trump Campaign adviser Jason Miller recently told voters: "You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America".

The Republican National Convention featured several speeches pushing this line against Biden and the Democrats.

Mark McCloskey, who gained notoriety after brandishing a gun as BLM protesters marched past his home in St. Louis, Missouri, told the RNC that the Democrats are "encouraging anarchy on our streets".

In June when looting broke out amid protests that were sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody Trump recommended every governor deploy the National Guard "in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets."

Trump then pledged to deploy the military if governors did not call in the National Guard.

His law and order rhetoric is a pitch to undecided voters and Republicans edging towards Biden who may hold the key to election victory.

Trump's unpopular response to the coronavirus pandemic, in which more than 185,000 Americans have died, has helped lift Biden to a strong lead over Trump in the polls, including in key battleground states.

But pictures of violent unrest in American cities, many of which are run by Democratic leaders, and which have coincided with protests heavily supported by Democrats, have created an opportunity for Trump to focus on an issue other than the pandemic.

The ABC News/Ipsos poll, however, shows the political risks of his tough rhetoric.

The president issued a memo on Wednesday to Attorney General William Barr and Russ Vought, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), suggesting a review of federal funding to local and state governments which are permitting "anarchy, violence, and destruction in American cities."

Trump's memo highlights Portland, Seattle, and New York, which have seen tense demonstrations since the death of George Floyd in May.

Portland is nearing its 100th day of consecutive protests, and the president has called to move federal troops there and in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where unrest broke out recently over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

On Thursday, the United States Conference of Mayors, a bipartisan organization comprising elected officials from some 1,400 cities across the country, formally condemned Trump's threat to cut local governments' federal funding.

"We have to stop this horrible left-wing ideology that seems to be permeating our country," Trump said at a press conference earlier this week about the Kenosha protests and violence. "It's weakness on behalf of Democratic politicians."

However, despite Trump's attacks on the Democrats over Kenosha and other unrest, a tracker survey released by the data company Morning Consult on Thursday showed that 52 percent of likely voters in Wisconsin still intended to vote for Biden.

Update 9/4/20, 11.30 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from Ken Farnaso, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign

Kenosha memorial Joseph Rosenbaum Anthony Huber
A small memorial decorates a lamp post near where Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, two supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, were shot and killed by a 17-year-old militia member during a night of rioting, as seen on September 1, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. A new poll has shown that President Trump's rhetoric about the protests is backfiring. Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty Images
Trump's Law and Order Rhetoric, His Election Gambit, Is Making Unrest Worse: Poll | Politics