It’s been only three days since Donald Trump Donald-Trump’d by calling for an indefinite ban on Muslims entering the United States, but already we’re starting to see evidence that many Republican voters are buying what he’s selling. Here are the results from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted by phone this week and released Thursday evening:
- Among all respondents: 25 percent agreed with Trump’s proposal, while 57 percent disagreed.
- Among self-identified Republicans: 42 percent agreed, while 36 percent disagreed.
- Among likely GOP primary voters: 38 percent agreed, while 39 percent disagreed.
A Bloomberg Politics online survey conducted the day after Trump announced his plan suggested even stronger support among likely Republican primary voters: 65 percent were in favor, compared to only 22 percent who weren’t. While the two polls differ in the degree of support Trump’s xenophobic plan has among his party, both make clear that a sizeable chunk of likely Republican voters are on board—a conclusion very much in line with previous polls that left little doubt that the GOP is controlled by voters who are ready to turn the U.S. government against Muslims.
The results illustrate the political reality the rest of the GOP field faces in the wake of Trump’s latest hijacking of the national debate. Even if we use the NBC poll’s more conservative estimate of support for Trump’s no-Muslims-allowed proposal, the Republican electorate is essentially split down the middle on the issue—while the Republican field is decidedly not. On one side there is Trump and 38 percent of likely voters; on the other is all of his GOP rivals and 39 percent of the primary electorate. You don’t need to be a poli-sci professor with a calculator to know which candidate that dynamic favors.
The debate over Trump’s plan has only been going for a few days, and there’s still a chance cooler heads could ultimately prevail, particularly if one of his establishment rivals is able to make a forceful case against the ban during next week’s Republican debate. I’m not holding my breath, though. In the Bloomberg survey, respondents were subsequently re-polled after being presented with arguments both for and against Trump’s plan, and support for it fell by only 1 point among Republicans to 64 percent. The case against didn’t mince words, either: “Leaders from across the political spectrum have condemned this policy, saying that banning members of an entire religion from entering the country goes against everything we believe in as Americans. And it will make our country less safe by alienating the allies we need to fight ISIS.” Most GOP respondents were OK with that.
Time and time again, we’ve seen Trump’s loyal band of supporters stick by his side. As the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel witnessed firsthand this week while watching a focus group of current and former Trump supporters, attacks on the current GOP front-runner simply seem to make his fans rally around him even more. “You know what Trump does?” said Teresa Collier, a 65-year old retiree in the focus group. “He says something completely crazy, and I’m like: ‘Oh, my God!’ Then he dials back and starts explaining it, and saying how he’d do it, and it makes sense.”