Ignore that poll — the anti-Trump protests are working

Monmouth is out today with a new poll showing that Donald Trump is positively dominating Florida.

44% of likely voters in the Florida Republican primary back Trump, with 27% favoring Rubio. Given that Florida is considered a must-win for Rubio if he hopes to be able to even make a credible case for winning the nomination through a contested convention, it’s looking safer and safer to say that he’s done.

Marco, FUBIO.

However, the topline isn’t the most interesting finding in this survey. We already knew Trump was winning in Florida. More interesting is Monmouth’s finding with respect to this question:

As you may know, Donald Trump cancelled a rally in Chicago Friday night where protesters and his supporters got into confrontations. Does what happened there and Trump’s response to it make you more likely or less likely to support Trump, or does it have no impact on your vote for the Republican nomination?

22% of respondents to this question indicated that Friday’s events made them more likely to vote for Trump.

11% indicated that it made them less likely to vote for Trump.

66% said that it didn’t affect their decision.

This two-to-one margin in favor of Trump amounts to a data point in favor of those who say that progressives’ best responses to Trump range from staying outside of his rallies to doing nothing at all other than voting against him in November. If you become “part of the show,” it’s being argued, you’re doing more harm than good. So sayeth the data:

I’m not so sure. This all seems like a pretty one-dimensional analysis of the situation.

Trump in New Hampshire, screenshot via YouTube

Trump in New Hampshire, screenshot via YouTube

For starters, Monmouth only asked the question about Friday’s protests to Republican primary voters. There’s no data (yet) on how the weekend went for Trump with the general electorate, but I’d say the odds are pretty good that it wasn’t nearly as sympathetic to Trump’s behavior. And since Trump is looking more and more like the prohibitive favorite to win the Republican nomination, we’re at least getting close to the point at which it’s time to stop evaluating these events in the context of the primary and start evaluating them in the context of November.

Second, again since this sample was limited to Republican primary voters, it’s worth pointing out that only 22% of respondents sided with Trump in an sample where 44% of respondents said they were planning on voting for Trump. Monmouth hasn’t released crosstabs for their poll, but I’d be willing to bet that many if not most of the respondents who approved of Trump’s behavior over the weekend were already in his camp.

Finally, and most importantly, a thumbs up/thumbs down question on the protests is a rather limited way of looking at what happened over the weekend. Yes, protestors shut down a Trump event, and in the current, backward understanding of the First Amendment that many Americans currently hold, exercising one’s right to protest amounts to an infringement of the free speech rights of the person being protested. So I get why Trump supporters, or even someone on the fence about supporting Trump, wouldn’t like the idea of people showing up to his events for the sole purpose of making it difficult for him to get his message out. I get why a plurality of respondents to Monmouth’s question sided with Trump.

But the news about Friday’s protests didn’t end there. Far more consequential than this weekend’s protests was the reaction they produced from Trump, who has since suggested that he would pay the legal and/or medical fees of counter-protestors who commit acts of violence on his behalf, tweeted out a bogus video linking a protestor to ISIS as fact and has openly threatened mob violence against another presidential candidate. None of these things happen without initial protests, and none of them make anyone other than the most ardent Trump supporters more likely to vote for him.

There’s a reason why protests work: As John wrote as he watched Trump getting protested at his rally in Kansas City on Saturday, “Trump is definitely looking annoyed, and he’s entirely off-script, just rambling at this point.” Done well, protests throw a candidate off-balance and, if you’re lucky, force them to drop their act. That’s exactly what happened this weekend. Trump wanted to talk in vague terms about Making America Great Again; instead, he spent much of the weekend talking in somewhat specific terms about how violence is good and the First Amendment is bad. That’s always been at the core of his appeal, but he’s usually able to say so in distant enough terms that people are able to make up reasons for themselves as to why he isn’t actually so awful. The more explicit and authoritarian Trump becomes, the less people have that luxury.

So yeah, I’m not buying the argument that protesting Trump at his rallies helps Trump. At least not in the long run, where it matters. Protesting Trump may enrage his own supporters, but it also exposes him for what he is: a racist, anti-democratic demagogue who prefers mob rule to the rule of law so long as he’s in charge.

Lots of people want to Make American Great Again, but not too many people think that’s the way to do it.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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14 Responses to “Ignore that poll — the anti-Trump protests are working”

  1. xtra says:

    The sole intent of the organized protests is to silence a speaker, disrupt a peaceable assembly and incite violence.
    If it were anti-union goons hired by Capitalist boss to silence, disrupt and incite violence at a Union rally, the left could understand. When it is done by rent-a-mobs, organized by moveon.orgy and funded by currency manipulator Soros, the Left applauds.

  2. Don Chandler says:

    One thing not mentioned, the growing protests are inflaming young people on the progressive side. Trump supporters are already inflame. The democrat base needs some passion.

  3. Bill Keeshen says:

    Seems like they may be divesting ownership in anticipation of a Trump candidacy.

  4. The_Fixer says:

    That poll did not show too much – I want to know about the 66%. What percentage of them are die-hard Drumpfo der Clown voters, and what percentage of them would not vote for him under any circumstances?

    As it is, all this poll tells us is that some people like the violent reactions he provokes. Interesting observation, but you didn’t need a poll to tell you that. Observing humans will tell you that some of us are warped.

    I still wonder how much of this is performance art, and if he will get out of the process because he really doesn’t want to be President. One could make that case, for sure.

    However, I would not like to put all my eggs in that basket, however. If he’s not performing to get out of it, he certainly has scary rhetoric and worse ideas.

  5. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Censorship is the suppression of speech or the written word. What is being suppressed and how is it being accomplished?

  6. BeccaM says:

    Protest and peaceful non-violent dissent does not and never has equaled censorship.

    Censorship is when a government bans certain types of speech based on its political, religious, social or philosophical content, under threat of prosecution. Civilians shouting down a fascist hate-monger is lawful 1st-Amendment protected dissent.

    By the way, your habit always of capitalizing Republican but not granting the courtesy to Democratic party members? That’s just petty.

  7. Tom Ryan says:

    I don’t think democrats should be censoring Republican candidates

  8. Phil in FLL says:

    Hilarious. Very embarrassing catch. Glad Politico has that damning article up on its site. What a stupid lie and so easily exposed.

  9. BeccaM says:

    Here’s a funny detail, gleaned from an article in Politico noting that Trump has lied blatantly more than 60 times in the last week: Remember that ‘Trump Wine’ he’s been promoting? Turns out he doesn’t own the winery at all.

    (Trump’s lie) “It’s the largest winery on the East Coast. I own it 100 percent. No mortgage. No debt. You can all check. You have to go check the records, folks. In fact, the press, I’m asking you, please check.” (March 8 in Jupiter, Fla.)

    Trump Winery in Charlottesville is not the largest vineyard or winery on the East Coast, according to the National Association of American Wineries.

    And the winery’s own website denies that Trump owns it. “Trump Winery is a registered trade name of Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC, which is not owned, managed or affiliated with Donald J. Trump, the Trump Organization or any of their affiliates.”

    Source: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/03/trump-fact-check-errors-exaggerations-falsehoods-213730

  10. Phil in FLL says:

    In the short run, the continued protests help Trump. In the long run, the protests make it more and more impractical for the Republican Party to offer him as a candidate. If Trump is the GOP candidate, the continued protests make it more and more likely that the Republican Party would split (as it did in 1912) and run a third-party non-Trump candidate.

  11. quax says:

    I am surprised that in addition to protests there is no wider boycott of all Trump branded products. Let’s hit him in the pocketbook.

  12. BeccaM says:

    One problem with that poll is it didn’t ask the respondents whether they were already Drumpf supporters or not.

    Those who have been craving an authoritarian fascist to take over the country are only going to be encouraged when their cult-of-personality leader behaves like the fascist they want. There are, however, some who are supporting Drumpf because they’re just uninformed (to use the kinder word) as to what kind of man he actually is — the reachable, still sane people who are have some basic human decency in them yet.

    Besides throwing Drumpf off his stride and forcing him to deal with an unending stream of protesters, sometimes folks forget the other point of peaceful, non-violent protest: It is to be seen taking the beatings, to walk or be carried out bloodied. Yes, for the violence worshiping followers, they like what they see, but again, the vast majority of people know right from wrong. In this case, it needs to be shown that Drumpf’s violent rhetoric is both intentional and sincere.

  13. hiker_sf says:

    I agree. I’d like to see polls of independent voters and of all voters over the age of 60. And the trajectory is clear – it is going to get worse before it gets better. Add protesting, while sometimes messy, is really validating to those who do s – all of a sudden you realize that you aren’t alone in your disgust for Trump. If you want to whine about him all the time, you are obligated to show up and be counted in opposition to this despicable person. We all need to do this.

  14. Zodi Yabadoo says:

    Don’t worry little Marco.

    After March 16th, you’ll still have a job.
    Donald will hire you to wash windows at Trump Towers Miami.

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