MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump made his mark railing against what he called political correctness.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don't, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn't have time either.
KELLY: Trump speaking at a Republican debate and answering a question about his Twitter insults of women.
Well, two years into the Trump presidency and after Democrats made big gains in the House in the 2018 midterms, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll tested some of the language of political correctness. And here to walk us through the results is NPR's lead political editor Domenico Montanaro. Hey, Domenico.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, Mary Louise.
KELLY: So give me the big takeaway. What'd you find?
MONTANARO: Well, the survey found that more than half of Americans are not in favor of the country getting more politically correct. And the question asked specifically was, in general, are you in favor of the United States becoming more politically correct and like when people are being more sensitive in their comments about others, or are you against the country becoming more politically correct and upset that there are too many things that people can't say anymore?
Now, people could have said, neither, had a mixed opinion or they weren't sure, but 52 percent said they were against the country becoming more politically correct. And just over a third of people said that they were in favor.
KELLY: So this wasn't polling, what do you think about a specific comment? This was asking, in general, are we headed too far in one direction or the other?
MONTANARO: Absolutely. And, really, a big part of why was because the Marist folks - the polling organization that conducted the poll - they wanted to test the language that the president has used as we head into the 2020 presidential primaries and see whether or not that resonates, if anything's changed from 2016 or not.
And this is, again, just one way of asking this question. We'll continue to ask it in various ways, I'm sure, as the campaign goes along.
KELLY: Speaking of Twitter, I gather that you're seeing a lot of pushback on this poll and the question and the way it was phrased on Twitter, and also seeing some pretty big divides in how these numbers shake out.
MONTANARO: There were huge divides by political party, between men and women who live in the suburbs, for example, and especially by generation. There were only a few groups of folks who 50 percent or more of them said that they were in favor of people being more sensitive and more politically correct. They included Democrats, adults under 30, African-Americans and suburban women.
Now, Republicans, on the other hand, three-quarters of them were against the country becoming more politically correct, which is not surprising, given their strong support for President Trump. But what's notable here is that siding with Republicans on this question were independents, and that can be a big warning sign, potentially, for Democrats heading into 2020.
KELLY: Why would it be a warning sign?
MONTANARO: Well, one of the big things that I've been looking at, and looking at polling over the last two years of this Trump presidency, is that independents have sided with Democrats on almost every single issue, and it really helped Democrats win in 2018. Remember, Trump won in 2016 among independents, and Democrats won them over in 2018. You know, but when it comes to this issue, this is one of the only issues where independents break with Democrats.
KELLY: Brand-new poll, I know, but are you left with any preliminary big takeaway thoughts in terms of what this says about our society and our politics?
MONTANARO: Well, the culture wars are real. They've been going on for a long time, but this is one more data point that tracks how divided the country really is.
And one thing that stood out to me, though, is long-term, when you look at how the country feels about political correctness or people being more sensitive in their comments, the younger people get, the more in favor they are of that kind of sensitivity. Part of what you're seeing with our fracturing of the political system is contingent on this question and how people feel about those culture wars.
KELLY: NPR's Domenico Montanaro talking about this new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll on political correctness. Thanks, Domenico.
MONTANARO: You're welcome.
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