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Most Americans think Trump’s encouraged white supremacists

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President Donald Trump
A
new poll says that most Americans believe that President Donald
Trump has encouraged white supremacists.


Andrew
Harnik/AP



  • A poll released by the Public Religion Institute found
    that the majority of Americans believe that President Donald
    Trump has encouraged white supremacists. 
  • Trump has been criticized for his rhetoric that has
    viewed as echoing that of white nationalists.
  • Multiple studies have found that hate crimes in the US
    are on the rise, and some have been correlated to Trump’s
    tweets. 

In light of a wave of high-profile hate threats and attacks,
President Donald Trump has been widely
criticized
in the media for stoking conspiracy theories and
false narratives among the conservative fringe.

Now,
a poll
from the Public Religion Research Institute
released Monday suggests that most Americans agree that Trump has
“encouraged white supremacist groups” with his decisions and
behavior. 

The poll, which surveyed 2,509 adults from all 50 states through
online surveys and live telephone interviews between September 17
and October 1, found that 54% of participants believed that
Trump’s decisions and behavior have encouraged white supremacist
groups, and 69% of participants said that Trump has “damaged the
dignity of the presidency.”

The poll, while taking place before the more recent threats and
attacks, suggests that even before the shooting at a synagogue in
Pittsburgh and bomb threats sent to Trump critics, much of the
public believed the narrative that Trump has played a roll in
stoking hate. 


charlottesville 2018Chris Jones/Business Insider

‘It’s not a surprising result given the type of rhetoric
we’ve seen come out of the White House’

Keegan Hankes, senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty
Law Center, says he’s not shocked by the results.

“It’s not a surprising
result given the type of rhetoric we’ve seen come out of the
White House, in particular out of President Trump’s Twitter
account,” Hankes said. 

According to Hankes, Trump’s rhetoric is similar to that found in
white supremacist spaces.

“We’ve seen him promote demonizing vulnerable populations such as
immigrants, refugees, Muslims, and so on,” says Hankes.
“That was exactly the type of rhetoric that we see coming out of
the white supremacist community.”

Most recently, Trump has been criticized for playing a role in
encouraging alarmist theories that alleged Tree of Life 
synagogue shooter Robert Bowers posted on fringe social media
site Gab.

Right before the shooting, Bowers singled out Jewish nonprofit
HIAS, which resettles refugees in the US, writing: “HIAS likes to
bring invaders that kill our people. I Can’t sit by and watch my
people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” The
post, along with others
shared
and written by Bowers, suggest that the alleged killer
was motivated by a conspiracy theory alleging that the migrant
caravan making its way toward the US border through Central
America is part of a Jewish plot (this has no basis in fact).

Trump and his administration have pushed
alarmist messages
about the caravan in recent weeks,
with both Vice President Mike Pence and Trump himself
saying
that “Middle Easterners” and “terrorists” were part of
the caravan. After the Tree of Life attack, Trump
echoed Browers’s exact rhetoric in a tweet, labeling the
caravan an “invasion.”

Trump’s rhetoric also notably aligned with white supremacists in
his response to the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally in
2017, which was organized by a group of neo-Nazis and white
supremacists and left one counterprotester dead. Despite ample
documentary evidence of marchers at the event chanting “Sieg
Heil
” and “Heil Trump,”
Trump insisted that there were “very fine people on both sides.”

Hankes said the recent attack in Pittsburgh and the wave of bomb
threats “represent the danger of that type of rhetoric coming out
of the most powerful halls of government,” calling Trump a
legitimizing voice for white
supremacist groups.”

Hankes’s assertion may not just be guesswork either. Hate crimes
increased by 12% in America’s 10 largest cities in 2017,
according to
a report
from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
A separate paper published
by the Social Science Research Network found a statistical
correlation between the number of tweets Trump made per week
related to Islam and the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes that
took place following that period (though the correlations only
applied to tweets and attacks related to Islam).

The data should at least suggest rhetorical caution, Hankes said.

“Trump’s rhetoric, demonizing vulnerable populations is not
helpful,” he said. “Rhetoric has consequences, sometimes violent
consequences as we saw Saturday. When these opinions are coming
from the government, they legitimize people with racist, bigoted,
extreme beliefs, who are sometimes violent minded. It’s a
dangerous combination we’re talking about.”

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