Let's begin with two points: First, let's stipulate that public opinion is not the ultimate arbiter of moral or ethical rectitude. Large majorities sometimes favor unjust causes, which does not render those causes any more just. Second, the word "surprise" in the headline applies mostly to the media and urban liberals who saw a large, emotional backlash against the Trump administration's policy, and wrongly assumed it was a tectonic popular uprising. This view was almost certainly colored by these bubble-dwellers' personal contempt for Trump, and their opposition to this policy. The coverage of the fallout from Trump's order -- my decidedly mixed analysis of which is HERE and HERE -- was heavily negative, so when the press received their pollsters' data on the firestorm, I'd bet they were expecting to see widespread opprobrium. Instead, they saw this:
Still where we were during campaign. Trump elicits massive protest, but plurality shrugs it off, or nods with him https://t.co/ya071BXEsc— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) January 31, 2017
By an eight-point margin, a (48 percent) plurality of Americans are in favor of the action Trump took, with 41 percent opposed. That number includes the support of nearly one-in-four Democrats, a plurality of independents, and a large majority of Republicans. Within the same survey, a near majority believes that the US should compassionately open its doors to innocents fleeing ISIS -- many of whom are in Syria and Iraq:
Also in that Reuters poll: 49% agree/40% disagree we should open our borders to those fleeing ISIS pic.twitter.com/PmLcUg5oFd— Nick Gourevitch (@nickgourevitch) January 31, 2017
Some people citied this data point as evidence of ignorance or hypocrisy on the part of people who want to help refugees, yet also favor Trump's policy -- but I'm not sure that follows: It's quite possible to simultaneously want to assist people in deep distress while also supporting the notion of pausing our existing system to add more safeguards to ensure that bad actors aren't infiltrating refugee populations. For what it's worth, Rasmussen measured support for the "ban"/non-"ban" (this Jake Tapper fact-check on that subject is pretty bruising) at 57 percent, while Quinnipiac's findings (measured pre-announcement) were right in line with the Reuters poll:
1/12 Quinnipiac poll: 48% support "suspending immigration from terror prone regions, even if it means turning away refugees" - 42% oppose— amy walter (@amyewalter) January 29, 2017
Those in the press who were left stammering and stunned by the latest realization that their twitter feed is not representative of broader public opinion may have also forgotten that the 'refugee pause' was popular under President Obama, too -- and his stance on the issue was not. And by the way, his "brave" moral position on refugees was not always reflected in his own policies, as David French laid out last week:
The Syrian Civil War touched off in 2011. Here are the Syrian-refugee admissions to the U.S. until Obama decided to admit more than 13,000 in 2016: Fiscal Year 2011: 29 Fiscal Year 2012: 31 Fiscal Year 2013: 36 Fiscal Year 2014: 105 Fiscal Year 2015: 1,682 To recap: While the Syrian Civil War was raging, ISIS was rising, and refugees were swamping Syria’s neighbors and surging into Europe, the Obama administration let in less than a trickle of refugees. Only in the closing days of his administration did President Obama reverse course — in numbers insufficient to make a dent in the overall crisis, by the way — and now the Democrats have the audacity to tweet out pictures of bleeding Syrian children?
That's part of the reason why it is so galling to see Democrats up on their high horses about refugees, especially those who've used tragic images from Syria to make a moral case. Most of those same lawmakers were nowhere to be found as the carnage spiraled under Obama, who drew and ignored red lines in the process of conducting an utterly failed foreign policy there. Another reminder that partisan tribalism is a powerful thing.