POLITICS
10/29/2018 04:12 pm ET

Half Of Americans Say Trump Has No Responsibility For Mail Bomber's Actions

But fewer than one-quarter say he discourages his supporters from acting violently.

Most Americans don’t hold President Donald Trump responsible for the spate of mail bombs sent to his critics, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds

Cesar Sayoc, a 56-year-old Floridian, was arrested last week for allegedly mailing pipe bombs to a slew of Trump’s prominent critics, including George Soros, former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and other Democratic politicians, as well as to CNN’s New York City office. Sayoc, who has a long criminal history, drove a van plastered with pro-Trump messaging.

Trump denounced the attempted attacks ― which he’d seemingly dismissed in an earlier tweet as “‘Bomb’ stuff” ― and pledged that “we must never allow political violence to take root in America.” But he has made no move to adjust his rhetoric against the news media and other frequent targets of his ire.

“There is no blame. There’s no anything,” Trump told reporters at a press conference last week. Asked if he planned to tone down his rhetoric, he responded, “I think I’ve been toned down. You know, I could really tone it up.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, echoed Trump’s comments on Monday.

Nearly 90 percent of those polled said they’d heard at least something about the bombs, according to the HuffPost/YouGov survey, with most saying they’d heard a lot about the story. Thirty-nine percent said Trump did enough to condemn the pipe bombs mailed to his critics, while 34 percent said he did not and the rest said they were unsure.

Just under one-quarter of respondents said the president bears a lot of responsibility for the bombs, 15 percent said he bears some responsibility, 10 percent just a little, and the remaining half said he bears no responsibility at all.

Views on both questions are divided sharply along political lines. Nine in 10 Trump voters said that Trump has no responsibility for Sayoc’s actions, with 88 percent saying the president did enough to condemn the bombs. By contrast, 80 percent of Clinton voters said the president has at least some responsibility, with just 7 percent saying that Trump issued a strong enough condemnation. Nonvoters, meanwhile, were about evenly split on Trump’s response to the bombs, with a slim majority saying he has no responsibility.

“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker said in a statement last week. “The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.”

Democratic leaders also condemned the president, with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) stating that “President Trump’s words ring hollow until he reverses his statements that condone acts of violence.”

Members of the Trump administration denied that Trump’s rhetoric played any part in inciting violence.

“Everyone has their own style, and frankly, people on both sides of the aisle use strong language about our political differences,” Vice President Mike Pence said on NBC News Saturday. “But I just don’t think you can connect it to acts or threats of violence.”

Americans said by a 14-point margin, 37 percent to 23 percent, that Trump encourages his supporters to act violently rather than discourages them (the rest said he does neither or that they were unsure). They also said by a somewhat more modest 9-point margin, 32 percent to 23 percent, that Democratic politicians are more likely to encourage violence than to condemn it.

Another poll also released Monday suggests a higher level of concern about Trump’s rhetoric. In that survey, a 54 percent majority of Americans said they agreed that “President Trump’s behavior has encouraged white supremacist groups.”

Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Oct. 26-28 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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