ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Donald Trump has created a gaping chasm in the Republican base over questions of his rhetoric and his behavior, but it's mainly the GOP front-runner's style -- not his substance -- that divides his most passionate supporters from his most uneasy detractors within the party.
A focus group of Republicans conducted outside of St. Louis on Tuesday showed that while a significant chunk of the GOP base unhesitatingly calls Trump unpresidential, disrespectful and boorish, their anxieties over Trump's demeanor are outweighed by their fears of a Hillary Clinton presidency. And a majority of Trump backers and foes alike in the group conceded -- largely with shrugs -- that his pledges to build a Southern border wall and deport the country's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants are plainly unfeasible and merely meant to convey strength on controversial issues.
"The base is totally divided. The only thing they're united on is they're against Hillary Clinton," said pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the focus group for the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. "At the same time, most of these voters are not rooting against him, they're rooting for him. A lot of them are saying that if he gives them an opportunity to accept him, they will accept him."
The group, which consisted of five Trump backers and seven Republican or GOP-leaning independents not currently backing him, offered a litany of words to describe the GOP front-runner that ranged from "strong" and "refreshing" to "disrespectful" and "a jerk."
But only one of the 12 said they would absolutely not consider supporting Trump in a general election. All 12 participants said they would never vote for Clinton, who universally earned labels like "criminal," "dishonest" and "evil."