Nearly half of Americans say Trump has increased the threat of mass shootings

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When Donald Trump took the stage at the Republican convention in 2016 to accept his party’s presidential nomination, he offered a bleak vision of the state of the country.

“The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon — and I mean very soon — come to an end,” he said. Trump pledged to “liberate our citizens from the crime and terrorism and lawlessness that threatens their communities.”

His campaign was predicated on the idea that the country was afflicted by rampant crime, dangerous immigrants, insidious terrorist infiltrators and economic stagnation. If his reelection campaign hopes to follow that path, new poll data from Fox News suggest a bumpy ride.

Approval of Trump’s performance as president remains just above 40 percent, down in Fox polling from where it was earlier in the year. The expected partisan divide exists — Republicans still love him and Democrats still hate him — but independents and suburban women remain more skeptical than approving. Even more than 4-in-10 whites without a college degree, a central demographic for Trump’s election, disapprove of Trump’s performance.

(Philip Bump/The Washington Post) That’s likely linked to general pessimism about the state of the country. Only 40 percent of respondents said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the state of the U.S. Less than half of whites without college degrees held that opinion. Less than a third of suburban women agreed.

(Philip Bump/The Washington Post) Suburban women are important in part because support from college-educated white women for the Republican Party has eroded significantly in the Trump era, helping hand the House back to Democrats in 2018.

(Philip Bump/The Washington Post) We’ve seen similar results before. The Fox News poll, though, went further, digging into one of the issues that Trump hyped in 2016: Which is the bigger threat to the U.S., respondents were asked, a terrorist attack committed by an Islamic extremist or a mass shooting committed by an American citizen?

Most respondents said that the American shooter was the bigger threat. Even among Republicans, that was the case.

(Philip Bump/The Washington Post) More than 7-in-10 respondents said they thought the federal government could take action to reduce gun violence to at least some extent. Which, of course, it hasn’t at this point.

There’s a subtext to this. Do voters blame the government for inaction? A separate Fox question got to that point. Americans are split on the extent to which Trump’s administration has alleviated the threat of a terrorist attack — but a plurality believe that he’s increased the risk of mass shootings.

(Philip Bump/The Washington Post) We put a box around the response to that latter question for suburban women to highlight it. More than half of suburban women think Trump has made America less safe from mass shootings.

Only 10 percent of respondents, asked to identify why mass shootings happen more often in the U.S. than other countries, blamed Trump in an open-ended question. (That is, when they weren’t asked to pick from a pre-determined list of options.)

Asked if Trump deserved some blame, more than half of Americans said he did. They were far more likely, though, to blame access to guns and a lack of services for the mentally ill. But here, again, more than half of suburban women — and nearly half of whites without a degree! — said Trump bore some blame.

(Philip Bump/The Washington Post) It’s hard not to see that as a significant condemnation of the president. Particularly when coupled with a bigger-picture question posed by the Fox pollsters. Nearly 6-in-10 respondents said that Trump is tearing the country apart rather than drawing it together, including a healthy majority of suburban women. There’s a wide gulf, too, between white and nonwhite respondents on this question.

(Philip Bump/The Washington Post) That same gap exists on another question. Fox asked how people felt about politics, with far more people saying they were tired of it than energized by it. But nonwhite respondents were about as likely to say they were energized and wanted to be involved than said they simply want politics to go away.

(Philip Bump/The Washington Post) This is an abstract question, well before the 2020 general election. But if groups that vote heavily Democratic feel energized by politics next November while groups that back Trump (like those whites without college degrees) feel worn down, the turnout imbalance that might result would be hugely problematic for the incumbent president.