Americans are more split on the Trump travel ban than you might think

President Trump's travel ban, which is currently on hold because of a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, is at the heart of a roaring debate about what kind of country we have — and what kind of country we want. It has set off huge protests and scads of legal challenges. And yet, the public at large remains relatively evenly divided on the ban (but don't call it a ban).

National polls using random telephone samples have found support for the proposal ranging from 42 to 47 percent with slight majorities opposed (51 to 55 percent); Trump has cited Web and automated polls that show support cresting in the mid-50s, though those polls rely on less rigorous samples of the public.

The varying levels of support should not surprise regular poll watchers given the complicated policy details, different question wordings and methods. But it’s also possible that initial opinions are largely driven by opinions of Trump himself rather than the policy. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn pointed to a telling sign of that pattern, with the early polls showing a tight connection between Trump’s job approval rating and support for the travel ban.

The dynamic is clear in the scatterplot below, with net support for the ban (support minus opposition) rising along with net job approval for Trump. While only nine polls are included in the analysis, the correlation of 0.91 is nearly as high as it can get (1.0 is the highest).

Given Trump’s well-established reputation, odds are that his approval ratings are doing more to influence support for the ban than the other way around. But as the political debate continues, attitudes toward the ban itself may take on heightened importance in driving its overall support as well as Trump’s popularity.

Beyond current support for the travel ban, polls find many Americans’ agree with Trump’s arguments that screening for refugees is insufficient, but even larger numbers agree with criticisms of his travel ban and broader immigration policy.

Agreement with arguments for the ban

On Trump’s side, a Monmouth University poll last fall found only 34 percent of registered voters saying the U.S. is doing enough to prevent future terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, while 57 percent said it is not. A poll released this week underscored persistent fears, with more than 7 in 10 adults saying they believe terrorists associated with the Islamic State are currently in the U.S. and have the resources to launch a major terrorist attack.

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Chris Alexakisgovernment