Raleigh, N.C. — Even before suggesting the United States should stop allowing Muslims into the country, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump did not exactly have the most welcoming attitude toward practitioners of Islam.
Trump has said he would "strongly consider" shutting down mosques and forcefully argued that "thousands" of Arabs in New Jersey cheered the destruction of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11.
In a piece published in Slate on Tuesday, William Saletan uses polling data to suggest that Trump isn't leading his flock to these ideas but is merely reflecting the attitudes held by at least a plurality of Republicans and not insignificant numbers of unaffiliated voters and Democrats.
North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, a firm that works mainly for Democrats and allied causes, added another poll to that pile Tuesday with a survey that showed 38 percent of North Carolina Republican voters backed the businessman-turned-candidate.
The survey asked voters about various attitudes on public policy items and their preferences for president. In the cross-tabs from those questions, PPP shows that 67 percent of Trump supporters back a database to track Muslims in the United States, 44 percent believe Islam should be illegal and 51 percent support shutting down mosques.
"It's hard to imagine Donald Trump’s newest round of comments about Muslims hurting him, at least in a state with a Republican electorate as conservative as North Carolina’s," Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a statement. "Few of his supporters even think the practice of Islam should currently be legal, much less that more Muslims should be allowed to enter the country."
There is a Trump-sized grain of salt that needs to be taken into consideration. While the poll surveyed 537 Republican primary voters and has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points for those voters, the potential for error increases rapidly when voters are divided into subgroups. Still, PPP's findings are consistent with the cross tabs in other polls, so they can be explored with some caution.
In general, Trump supporters back measures restricting Muslims at a higher rate than the overall survey population, but those ideas are not entirely out of whack with other voters. For example, 48 percent of North Carolinians surveyed overall support a national database to track Muslims. Among those who support U.S. Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the three candidates who placed second through fourth in the survey, appreciable percentages held the same views.
However, while many Republican office-holders have responded negatively to President Barack Obama's call to ban those on the terror watch list from buying firearms, backers of the GOP front-runners in North Carolina favor the idea. Among Trump supporters, the idea has 90 percent backing.
Below is a table of some of the positions the PPP survey asked about and how it played among the supporters of the leading GOP candidates.
|Position||Survey Overall||Donald Trump||Ted Cruz||Ben Carson||Marco Rubio|
|Support a criminal background check for everyone who wants to buy a firearm.||83%||81%||75%||82%||90%|
|Support a bill barring people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing a firearm.||86%||90%||81%||84%||92%|
|Believe thousands of Arabs in New Jersey cheered when the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11.||42%||62%||47%||27%||31%|
|Support shutting down mosques in the United States.||35%||51%||41%||26%||29%|
|Islam should be illegal in the United States.||32%||44%||30%||27%||16%|
|Support a national database of Muslims in the United States||48%||67%||43%||34%||38%|
Source: Public Policy Polling / Results released Dec. 8, 2015.