Poll: Most Americans Think Trump's Reported Remarks About Soldier Were Inappropriate

A plurality of Americans believe the president has respect for the military.

Most Americans think it was inappropriate for President Donald Trump to tell the widow of a soldier killed in combat that he “knew what he signed up for,” as the president reportedly did during a telephone conversation, a HuffPost/YouGov survey finds.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) said earlier this week that she heard Trump offer the statement during a phone call between the president and Myeshia Johnson, the pregnant widow of slain Army Sgt. La David Johnson. The fallen soldier’s mother confirmed Wilson’s account.

U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was among four special forces service members killed in Niger, West Africa, on Oct.
U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was among four special forces service members killed in Niger, West Africa, on Oct. 4, poses in a handout photo.

Trump said in a tweet that the congresswoman’s claim was “totally fabricated,” while his spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, later seemed to imply the comment was accurately reported but had been taken the wrong way.

Fifty-four percent of the Americans surveyed say the comment was inappropriate. Just 10 percent find the remark appropriate, while 23 percent say they don’t believe Trump made that comment. The rest are unsure.

Americans say by a 7-point margin, 44 percent to 37 percent, that they believe Trump respects the military. They’re more evenly split on his role as commander in chief, with 40 percent saying he has used the military responsibly and 36 percent that he’s done so irresponsibly.

Among those who say they or an immediate family member has served in the military or is currently serving, 46 percent consider Trump’s reported comment inappropriate, 12 percent think it’s appropriate, and 30 percent don’t believe he said it. Fifty-five percent of those people say they believe Trump respects the military, with just over half saying he has used it responsibly.

Voters who supported Trump in last year’s election are 85 points likelier than those who backed Hillary Clinton to say that Trump respects the military, and 80 points likelier to find his use of the armed forces responsible.

A near-universal 92 percent of Clinton voters think it was inappropriate for Trump to say the deceased soldier “knew what he signed up for,” while the majority of Trump voters, 56 percent, believe he never said that.

The attack in Niger has remained largely under the radar. Just 19 percent of Americans say they’ve heard a lot about the four U.S. soldiers who were killed there earlier this month, and a third say they’ve heard nothing at all.

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. 18-19 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.