NEW YORK Americans are sharply divided over President Donald Trump’s order to temporarily block U.S. entry for all refugees and citizens of seven Muslim countries, with slightly more approving the measure than disapproving, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.
The Jan. 30-31 poll found that 49 percent of American adults said they either “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed with Trump’s order, while 41 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” disagreed and another 10 percent said they don’t know.
But the responses were split almost entirely along party lines. Some 53 percent of Democrats said they “strongly disagree” with Trump’s action while 51 percent of Republicans said they “strongly agree.”
Trump’s executive order banned refugees from entering the United States for 120 days, and it placed an indefinite hold on Syrian refugees. It also blocked citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The president, who campaigned on a promise to bring what he called “extreme vetting” to the nation’s immigration system, said the order he signed on Friday was meant to protect the country and its borders. “This is not a Muslim ban,” he said.
But confusion over who was covered by Trump’s order left travellers, airlines and foreign governments scrambling to get clarity from U.S. officials, many of whom were also bewildered.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll found 31 percent of Americans feel “more safe” because of the ban, compared with 26 percent who said they felt “less safe.” Some 38 percent said they felt the United States was setting “a good example” of how best to confront terrorism, while 41 percent said the country was setting “a bad example.”
Democrats were more than three times as likely as Republicans to say that the “U.S. should continue to take in immigrants and refugees,” and Republicans were more than three times as likely as Democrats to agree that “banning people from Muslim countries is necessary to prevent terrorism.”
Most Americans, however, don’t think the country should show a preference for Christian refugees, as Trump has suggested. Some 56 percent, including 72 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Republicans, disagreed that the country should “welcome Christian refugees, but not Muslim ones.”
At the weekend, protesters swarmed major U.S. airports where some immigrants had been temporarily detained because of the order. Lawmakers, including some from Trump’s Republican Party, denounced the decision as discriminatory and counterproductive for national security.
More than a dozen state attorneys general said they would work together to fight the order, and the top federal government lawyer, Sally Yates, was fired after she refused to defend it.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English in all 50 states. It gathered poll responses from 1,201 people including 453 Democrats and 478 Republicans. It has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 3 percentage points for the entire sample and 5 percentage points for the Democrats and the Republicans.
(Reporting by Chris Kahn, editing by Ross Colvin)