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More Americans Support Than Oppose Protests Over The Jacob Blake Shooting, Poll Shows

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Joe Biden heads to the Wisconsin city of Kenosha tomorrow. That's after President Trump visited yesterday. The two have offered dramatically different views on the protests sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake. So what do Americans in general think of the protests? A new Ipsos poll provided exclusively to NPR shows support for protests splintering even more along racial and political party lines. NPR's Joel Rose joins us now to talk about all of this.

Joel, how do Americans feel about this latest round of protests?

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Well, according to this poll, more Americans support than oppose these recent protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake. But it's close; 43% percent support and 38% oppose overall. And if you look deeper, some very stark divisions emerge. Two-thirds of Black respondents support the protests compared to just over one-third of whites. The sharpest division, though, is along partisan lines. Seventy-five percent of Democrats say they support the protests compared to just 7% of Republicans.

PFEIFFER: Massive difference - 75% versus 7%. Now, protests - when they started this summer earlier, there was previous polling. Does this new poll differ than the previous polls?

ROSE: It is a little bit different. The polling firm Ipsos has been tracking public opinion about racial justice protests for months now. And back in the spring, after George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis, almost 45% of Republicans back then said they supported demonstrations against police brutality. I talked to Mallory Newall, who's a research director at Ipsos, about this.

MALLORY NEWALL: I think there is a significant shift at the partisan level. You are seeing a certain segment of the population that is the Republican base responding to how the president is communicating around these issues.

PFEIFFER: And, Joel, because of how the president has been communicating, the mayor of Kenosha, the governor and lieutenant governor of Wisconsin told him not to come, but he did anyway. How does the country in general feel about President Trump's response to the protests?

ROSE: Well, only 27% of people in this poll support the president's response to these protests. Trump has emphasized a law and order approach, and he's focused almost entirely on the violence that has erupted at the protests, calling it, quote, "domestic terrorism." I talked to Laurie Dozier, who's a registered Democrat in Cleveland, Ohio. And she's been very critical of the president's response.

LAURIE DOZIER: He is adding a lot of gasoline to a fire that's already kind of burning on its own, don't need any more help to burn. I think that he likes it. He likes exciting his base.

ROSE: Dozier, by the way, was also very critical of violence at the protests. That was actually a common thread in this Ipsos poll. Seventy-six percent of all respondents agreed that violence discredits the goal of achieving racial justice.

PFEIFFER: Joel, what about Joe Biden? How do people feel about his response to the protests according to the poll?

ROSE: Well, somewhat better - 40% say they support Biden's response. Today Biden said protesting and free speech is a right but denounced violence and looting. And he again claimed - blamed President Trump for stoking division and violence.

But Republicans are sticking with Trump. I talked to Edward Bluemel. He lives in the Chicago suburbs. And he says it was, quote, "very excessive" for police officers to shoot Jacob Blake seven times in the back. Still, here is what Bluemel had to say about the protesters.

EDWARD BLUEMEL: They're out there rioting and looting and burning. It's just like a crime spree. I don't believe what they're doing is doing anything good for the Black community. I really believe that the Democrats - they're letting this go just because there's an election coming up, and it'll make the Republicans look bad.

PFEIFFER: Joel, I'm still thinking about that number - 75% of Democrats, 7% of Republicans - massive divisions here. And they seem to be only getting worse. That's NPR's Joel Rose.

Thank you for this.

ROSE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.