Donald Trump's repeated attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel have his fellow Republicans in a state of panic. But I've wondered whether America is enlightened enough for Trump's statements to be seen as truly offensive by a significant majority of the country.
According to a new YouGov poll, Trump's attacks on the judge are seen as racist by a majority -- but it's a bare majority:
What a large majority of Republicans do agree on ... is that Donald Trump's comments weren't racist. Only 22% of Republicans say that the comments were racist. In comparison 81% of Democrats and 44% of independents say that the comments were racist.
Hispanics themselves widely viewed the remarks as racist (69% to 15%), while whites were divided with 43% saying it was racist and 40% saying it was not.
It turns out that respondents think it was wrong for Trump to attack the judge by a margin of 57%-20% (23% don't know). But racist? A total of 49% say no, or aren't sure. Among whites, 56% say they don't see the attacks as racist, or aren't sure. The same for independents.
And I think the respondents might be coming off as more racially sensitive than they actually are. If you look at the survey questions, the respondents were asked about Trump and the judge only after multiple questions about whether judges can be impartial across racial lines in a police brutality case, whether male and female judges can be impartial in rape cases, whether a Muslim judge can be fair in a terrorism case, and so on. I suspect that, after those questions, some respondents could identify the "right" answer on the Trump racism question, that is, the one that the pollster would consider socially acceptable. So I think the 51% total for "yes, racist" is an overestimate.
I'm pleased that there's condemnation. But there's not enough of it. I predict Trump won't take a hit in the polls as a result of this.