NEW YORK • A majority of Americans sympathise with nationwide protests over the death of an unarmed black man in police custody and disapprove of President Donald Trump’s response to the unrest, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
The survey conducted on Monday and Tuesday found that 64 per cent of American adults were “sympathetic to people who are out protesting right now”, while 27 per cent said they were not and 9 per cent were unsure.
The poll underscored the political risks for Mr Trump, who has adopted a hard-line approach to the protests and threatened to deploy the US military to quell violent dissent. The Republican President faces Democrat Joe Biden in November’s election.
More than 55 per cent of Americans said they disapproved of Mr Trump’s handling of the protests, including 40 per cent who “strongly” disapproved, while just one-third said they approved – lower than his overall job approval of 39 per cent, the poll showed.
A separate Reuters/Ipsos poll found that Mr Biden’s lead over Mr Trump among registered voters expanded to 10 percentage points – the biggest margin since the former vice-president became his party’s presumptive nominee in early April.
On Monday, police used tear gas to clear peaceful protesters near the White House so Mr Trump could pose for a photograph in front of an Episcopalian church nearby.
The following day, American religious leaders castigated Mr Trump for his actions at the church, during which he held up a Bible. “It was traumatic and deeply offensive, in the sense that something sacred was being misused for a political gesture,” Washington’s Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde said on public radio station NPR.
The Republican billionaire, whose supporters include many evangelical Christians, used “the symbolic power of our sacred text, holding it in his hand as if it was a vindication of his positions and his authority”, she said.
Other Episcopalian leaders denounced Mr Trump’s visit to the church as “disgraceful and morally repugnant”. “Simply by holding aloft an unopened Bible he presumed to claim Christian endorsement and imply that of The Episcopal Church,” bishops from New England said in a statement.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE