It turns out Democrats aren’t the only ones who believe President Donald Trump has a problem dealing with racial issues.
The findings from a new Pew Research study released Tuesday reveal the percentage of Republicans who think Trump’s helped improve race relations has plummeted since he was elected president in November 2016.
Back then, 48% of GOP supporters said Trump would make race relations better. That number dropped to 17% last month, according to Pew.
“We do see that to some extent people were more optimistic before the president took office than after,” Pew Research Associate Director Jocelyn Kiley, who coauthored the study, told Mic Tuesday afternoon.
“People felt Barack Obama hadn’t really made much of a difference [on race relations] after his first year,” she continued. “For Trump, we do have a growing number who said he’s made race relations worse.”
During their research, the study authors surveyed a representative sample of 1,503 adult respondents from across the US from Nov. 29-Dec. 4.
They found that 60% of all respondents said Trump’s election has led to worse race relations in the US, but “most of the increase in negative opinions has come among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.”
Former President Obama scored slightly better among Republicans when it came to race relations one year after he was elected president in November 2009.
Back then, 21% of Republicans said Obama had improved race relations, four points higher than the 17% who said the same of Trump last month, Pew researchers found.
“Overall the public’s assessment of race relations in the U.S. is more negative than positive,” Kelly added, “and there’s a view that Trump has made race relations worse. That’s the bottom line.”
Republicans blame Trump for worsening racial divide?
It may seem obvious to many that Trump has exacerbated racial division in the U.S.
Republicans like former U.S. House candidate Michel Faulkner, pastor of New Horizon Church in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, however, point out that racially charged events like the Trayvon Martin tragedy, the death of Mike Brown and the July 2016 massacre of police in Dallas had already divided America along racial lines before Trump took office.
“Has President Trump helped it? Not really, no,” Faulkner, who is black, told Mic on Tuesday. “But we’re not going to get out of this simply by pinning it on Donald Trump,” he added.
Faulkner, a former NFL football player and self-described “anti-big government” conservative, says he voted for Obama in 2008 because he thought the nation’s first black president would help heal centuries-old racial wounds.
He also voted for Trump in 2016, but doesn’t consider himself a “Trump supporter.”
“I don’t like to be painted into a box of a Trump supporter,” Faulkner said. “I’m a black Republican. I think the president has done some good things and some things i didn’t like. I think the nation is moving forward, especially on some economic things.”
J.C. Polanco, a Republican from the Bronx, is an Afro-Latino GOP organizer and staunch “Never Trumper” who supported Marco Rubio and then Ted Cruz during the 2016 GOP primaries.
Polanco agrees, “without a doubt,” that Trump has widened racial divisions, citing the president’s campaign rhetoric labeling Latinos as rapists and criminals and Trump’s tepid response to the neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, as evidence.
“A lot of it has to do with his inability to see the importance, to pay attention to race relations,” Polanco told Mic Tuesday. “At this point, it’s almost a willful disregard of the importance of this issue.”
Both Faulkner and Polanco say there’s much more diversity among Trump supporters than most anti-Trump Americans realize. Polanco also says many Trump supporters willfully disregard the history of race in America and the critical role it plays in modern politics.
“I didn’t support this president because he was the birther in chief,” Polanco said. “A lot of the people of color that I see that are Trump supporters seem to be aloof to a lot of the racial issues. You have people who are supportive of the president who couldn’t care less on race relations. We have to have the adults in the room who will try to bring people together.”