Our poll asked respondents whom they would specifically blame for the Chicago protest. Fully 54 percent agreed that protesters were responsible for the violence — "if they wanted to protest peacefully, they should have done so." But among Republicans, support for that position rose to 74 percent; among Democrats, it sank to 37 percent.
This makes sense: We know that when partisan information is introduced into an example, people’s partisan instincts determine how they answer questions. But with a significant number of Democrats and independents agreeing with blaming protesters for the violence in Chicago, it seems that protest and violence are two different situations in the minds of voters.
To that end, the electorate is pretty evenly split on the question of whether Trump should bear any blame for violence occurring at his rallies: 30 percent say they pin "a lot" of blame on him, while roughly the same number, 29 percent, say they don’t blame him at all. The split is almost entirely due to differing views among Democrats and Republicans.
One fact that reflects the deep partisan divide over the importance of this issue: Fully 37 percent of Democrats said they’d heard "a lot" about violence at Trump rallies. By contrast, only 23 percent of Republicans said the same; many more said they’d only heard a little about the controversy or hadn’t heard of it at all.
That’s probably because the news sources that Democrats are more likely to read — from mainstream publications to liberal blogs – fixated on the bouts of violence as threats to the functioning of democracy. Conservative media outlets tended to write about the violence less; at least one, Breitbart, actively attempted to tamp down on an alleged assault on its own reporter by Trump’s campaign manager.
And by at least one measure, the media’s attempts to link Trump to violence have failed. Only 14 percent of poll respondents — Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike — think Trump was to blame for his supporter’s attack on a protester; about the same, 16 percent, actually thought it was the protester's fault. (Far more people, 52 percent, blamed the audience member who sucker-punched the protester for causing the violence.)
People aren't buying the notion that Trump's words cause violence at all.
Even one in four African-Americans think the protesters were at fault for Trump's Chicago rally violence, nearly 40% of Democrats do, and more than half overall.
So yes, as long as Trump keeps screaming about how protesters are trying to "silence" him and 35-40% of Democrats keep agreeing with him on that, he's going to keep winning this argument.