Thursday, March 17, 2016

Do Americans Support Trump's Muslim Ban?

How about a ban on bad spellers?

In December of last year, Donald Trump advocated "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." Predictably, this was denounced as racist, un-American, a violation of the 1st Amendment, fascist, extremist, etc., etc.

Trump did not spell out precisely how this ban would be put in place (as is typical, his opponents might say), but it should be noted that the United States Government need not ask potential immigrants their religion in order to implement such a policy, or at least to implement it de facto. It could, for example, put a temporary halt to emigration from certain countries, with possible exceptions made for persecuted minorities or other groups. Most European countries, whatever their initial position on the matter, are implementing such a policy or contemplating doing so at this very moment.

Whether Trump's proposed ban is racist, fascist or any other quasi-subjective bad thing is of course not measurable by scientific analysis. But we can measure whether it is "extremist" or "out of the mainstream" by, among other things, simply doing some polling. Not surprisingly, in the weeks after Trump's statement, a number of organizations did just that.

The results of the polls varied based on the wording of the question asked--among other things, when the fact that the ban was being proposed as a temporary ban was highlighted, it usually boosted the pro-ban side--as well as how the polled groups were defined--some included all adults while others looked for only registered voters or likely voters. One of the more interesting results was obtained by Fox News, which asked the survey question in two ways--one referencing Trump's name and the other not. Interestingly, when Trump's name was not mentioned, support for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration increased by 5%. Whether that's good news for Trump himself is another question.

I took all the polls I could find on the issue--eight in all--and then averaged them. You're not supposed to average polls, but I did it anyway. (The individual results will be presented at the end of the post.) Just so people know, I really did include all the polls I could find, rather than choosing only those polls that supported my case (whatever my case is supposed to be). I encourage you to check that claim on Google. And if there is some poll I missed, I would be happy to know about it. 

What were the results?

For all adults or all voters--Republicans, Democrats and Independents--52%, or a slight majority, opposed Trump's Muslim ban, while 38% supported it. However, 3 out of the 8 polls found that a plurality favored the ban.

But for Republicans, 58%, or a solid majority, supported the Muslim ban, while only 34% opposed it. In 2 out of the 8 polls, however, a plurality of Republicans opposed the ban.

What to say about this? Unless you want to only use the outlier polls, such as Fox News on one end and Quinnipiac on the other (see below), then the majority or average of all the polls show that Trump's ban is indeed opposed by Americans as a whole. But it is not overwhelmingly opposed. And one could easily imagine a change in events--for example, another terrorist attack--that would swing things.

On the other hand, the ban is supported by a solid majority of Republicans. Looking at the numbers alone, Trump's suggestion is not "extreme" by any measure. Indeed, for Republicans it is positively the "mainstream" position.

It roughly tracks the political split--small majority of all Americans opposing but solid majority of Republicans supporting--that exists for some other contemporary controversies, such as, for example, banning federal funds for Planned Parenthood, "banning" gay marriage or banning most types of abortion. Indeed, all of those "bans"--staples of most Republican political platforms--are arguably less popular among Republicans (and all Americans) than Trump's Muslim ban.

Many Democrats, liberals and "moderates" of all stripes will always cry "racism" against anything that remotely opposes Islamist aggression in any form. They think a German woman slapping a New Year's Eve groper is racist.   

But for those Republicans, conservatives, libertarians and others of good will who disagree with Trump's proposal, it is time to stop claiming that Trump's suggestion is racist, un-American, an "attack on Muslims" (as Mitt Romney recently claimed) or whatever. If it is, then a majority of fellow Republicans, conservatives, libertarians and others are in fact also racist, un-American Muslim haters.

So let's quit playing that holier-than-thou game right now.


Here are the polls:

"Favor" means that they favor Trump's ban on Muslims.
"Oppose" means that they oppose Trump's ban on Muslims.

Bloomberg Politics/Purple Strategies, December 9, 2015:

Favor: 37%
Oppose: 50%

Favor: 65%
Oppose: 32%

Rasmussen, December 10, 2015:

Favor: 46%
Oppose: 40%

Favor: 66%
Oppose: 24%

Wall Street Journal/NBC, December 10, 2016:

Favor: 25%
Oppose: 57%

Favor: 38%
Oppose: 39%

YouGov, December 11, 2015:


Favor: 45%
Oppose: 41%

Favor: 69%
Oppose: 25%

CBS, December 11, 2015:

Favor: 36%
Oppose: 58%

Favor: 54%
Oppose: 38%

ABC News/Washington Post, December 14, 2015:


Favor: 36%
Oppose: 60%


Favor: 59%
Oppose: 38%

Fox News, December 18, 2015:

Favor: 50%
Oppose: 46%

Favor: 71%

Fox News (without referencing Donald Trump in the question):

Favor: 55%
Oppose: 40%

Favor: 72%

Quinnipiac, December 23, 2015:

Favor: 27%
Oppose: 66%

Favor: 41%
Oppose: 51%


  1. Good stuff Oakes. I agree. My take away from all of this only adds to the conclusion that in general most Democrats are basically emotional, subjective and irrational. How else can we explain the sorry state of the country?

    1. Well, yeah, but we knew that. :) But now the Republican or conservative Never Trumpers are behaving the same way. Anyway, it wasn't even a pro-Trump piece per se (and I originally wrote it a week ago when I was probably planning on voting for Cruz). It was simply an attempt to look at what the polls actually said about the issue. But judging from some of the "conservative" flack I got on Google+, when you try to objectively discuss anything to do with Trump without at the same time yelling "fascist" or whatever, then you too must be a fascist Trumpster. Or so it sometimes seems. I'm getting a bit tired of it.

  2. I've followed this debate elsewhere and looked into the law, which is quite clear and has already been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court: The President can deny entry into the country to anyone he wishes for any reason he wishes. It is for the President to decide; not Congress and not the Court.

    As I said, my research found that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on this matter. Whoever ends up President can then deny anyone entry.