Glass Half Nice Time: Full 40% Of GOP Say Don't Torture The Little Children Who Come Unto Us
Some new polling indicates that when it comes to immigrant kids in horrible conditions, most Republicans are fully in agreement with Fox News and Donald Trump: It's not a problem, because those kids don't belong here in the first place. The poll, by progressive outfits YouGov Blue and Data for Progress, found that while a majority of Americans in its sample think the government should be treating migrant children better, most Republicans take the opposite view -- in harsh terms you don't often see used in polling.
As partial inspiration for the survey, the pollsters point to a statement Brian Kilmeade made last June on "Fox and Friends," during the worst of the babies in cages family separation policy. It was a corker, and not at all atypical of Fox's immigration coverage then or since:
Taking children from their parents was absolutely fine, said Kilmeade, because Donald Trump had to teach the Central American parts of Mexico a lesson in civilization:
He's trying to send a message to the other countries. This is not how you do it. Because this is a nation that has rules and laws. We can't just let everybody in that wants to be here. Like it or not, these are not our kids. Show them compassion, but it's not like he's doing this to the people of Idaho or Texas. These are people from another country.
So for their survey, the pollsters described the current situation in Border Patrol detention facilities and offered two possible responses, one directly modeled on Kilmeade's language:
Recently, there have been news reports of unsafe and unsanitary conditions for children held in detention at the border. Children have been reported to be without toothbrushes, soap, and blankets, and older children are reportedly caring for babies they don't know. Which comes closer to your view?
1. These are unacceptable conditions that need to be fixed immediately so children have a safe environment. Our government should not treat children this way.
2. These are not our children, and they should not have come or been brought here. The government is doing all that it needs to be doing.
Yes. this is very much offering respondents the chance to clearly say no child should be mistreated, or to shrug and say "Not our kids, not our problem." And not surprisingly, most of the 1,014 voters surveyed chose the human option:
Over two-thirds of Americans, 68 percent, agreed that these are unacceptable conditions that must be fixed immediately. Only 32 percent agreed that what the government was doing was sufficient since "these are not our children."
The pollsters note that rejection of dirty unsafe conditions for children in immigration detention held up pretty well across demographic groups, with similar responses regardless of "age, gender, race, education, and born-again religious identification[.]" That last group was a bit of a surprise for us, frankly, given last year's Pew poll finding only 25 percent of white Evangelicals believe the US has any obligation to take in refugees. But hey, different polls, different methodologies.
Oh, but one demographic category created a huge divide: Political party. More than 90 percent of Democrats (and D-leaning independents) agreed that conditions in the baby jails must change, with just eight percent choosing "not our children." But among Republicans and R-leaning independents, the Not Our Problem faction won out, with 60 percent agreement. And even there, 40 percent managed to answer "Guess I'll say I'm not a monster."
We should note the pollsters say that since they included independents who lean one way or the other with the respective parties, they're not certain the sample of "true independents" is large enough to really mean a lot here.
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent notes that, for this poll at least, the turn away from the usually "objective" language of polling is quite deliberate:
The question is framed starkly. The lead-in paints an arresting — though accurate — picture, and the second view negatively describes the children as not ours, and adopts a deliberately callous expression of how our government should be treating them.
But Alissa Stollwerk, the director of YouGov Blue, tells me that this is precisely the point — to test how voters view the more callous framing, in contrast with the more sympathetic one, in part because the former is the kind of rhetoric you hear on Fox News.
It's also, of course, the language you hear coming from the Leader of the Free World:
Nota bene: Asking for asylum is not a crime. Pfft, details, details, we're talking about Fox viewers, after all, and the Fox Viewer In Chief. Clearly, the framing of seeking asylum -- a basic human right -- as a crime has caught on with a significant segment of voters. If they're criminals instead of human beings, well then why should anyone care if they're mistreated? More mistreatment is the answer! The cruelty, as Adam Serwer put it, is the point.
We aren't sure we really want anyone to make a habit of framing polls to mimic the language of Fox News, because do we really want to let, say, Tucker Carlson become the boss of poll questions? We don't really need a Gallup survey to measure whether owning the libs is a primary factor in voting decisions.
Still, it's a pretty useful result: Even when the "right" answer is made fairly obvious, a significant chunk of Trump voters will go with the perverse, fuck-you option.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.