Aaron Blake, Washington Post, July 6, 2016
This war on political correctness worked to great effect in the Republican primary. But, as with most everything about Trump, it’s falling flat in the general election campaign.
Political correctness is a great bogeyman. In fact, an October poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University showed that 68 percent of Americans agreed that political correctness was a “big problem” in society. Just 27 percent disagreed.
Quinnipiac University asked the question a different way last week, finding 51 percent said political correctness was a bigger problem than prejudice, while 44 percent said prejudice was a bigger problem. So even in this case, a majority is anti-political correctness.
The Fairleigh Dickinson poll, for example, asked a separate sample this version of the same question, invoking Trump by name: “Donald Trump said recently: A big problem this country has is being politically correct. Do you agree or disagree?” In this case, those saying political correctness was a big problem dropped from 68 percent to 53 percent.
The Q poll also shows Americans are very polarized when it comes to political correctness. While 86 percent of Republicans said it was a bigger problem than prejudice, 80 percent of Democrats said prejudice was a bigger problem. Independents were split.
And when it comes to Trump’s chosen areas of political correctness, the reviews are stunningly bad. A Washington Post-ABC News poll a couple of weeks back found that 66 percent of Americans said Trump’s comments about women, minorities and Muslims indicate that he’s unfairly biased against them. Similarly, 68 percent labeled Trump’s comments questioning the impartiality of a judge of Mexican heritage as “racist,” and fully 85 percent said they were at least inappropriate.
Trump has run a campaign that was basically geared at getting the passionate support of 25 to 30 percent of Americans. That was enough to win the GOP primary, but in the general election, it has become clear that Trump has alienated groups that are now much bigger parts of the electorate.
Which brings us back to the six-sided-star tweet. The image, which first appeared on an account with a penchant for offensive memes, may have carelessly shared. It could well be construed as being offensive and racist. And it certainly didn’t draw the sort of reaction the campaign was looking for.
But it’s also clear that Trump’s campaign has, for a whole host of reasons, squandered the benefit of the doubt in the minds of a strong majority of Americans. So when he argues that something is not racist or deliberately offensive, he’s asking people to make a leap that a majority don’t seem to be comfortable with.