We have known since November, at least anecdotally, that the election of 2016 was decided by large shifts in white working class voters and by blacks in key states who stayed home. Now, PRRI, a non-profit, non-partisan organization associated with the Atlantic, has produced a new study finding “cultural displacement—not economic hardship” were the biggest predictors of white working-class support for Donald Trump.
Liberals are not going to like this study. Even though it shows that more than half of white working-class Americans think discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against other races, the overarching message that comes out of the report is that cultural displacement drove support for Trump. Contrary to what the NeverTrumper Republicans want to think, Trump had the dedicated support of the rank-and-file Republicans, who were 11 times more likely to support Trump as non-Republicans. The study noted that “No other demographic attribute was significant.” Thus, the Bill Kristols and Jonah Goldbergs failed dramatically to diminish Trump’s party support.
A commonly held view among the respondents was that they “feel like a stranger in their own land” and that the U.S. needed protecting against foreign influence. Some 68% white working-class Americans—and a majority of the public as a whole—believed the United States was “in danger of losing its culture and identity.” Ruh Roh, Scooby. That’s a significant finding when a majority of Americans fear we’re becoming like Germany or France. And 60% believed that immigrants were threatening American society, while only 30% saw immigrants as strengthening society.
The study also found important economic factors, though none of them as dominant as the loss of culture. For example, only 38% of the respondents said they were excellent or good shape financially, and one quarter said their financial situation in the last few years has gotten worse. But even among the college educated, only 41% said their financial situation has improved. This is a shocking testament to the widespread nostrum that college will solve all economic ills. Indeed, over half of the respondents thought getting a college education was a risk, as opposed to 44% who saw it as an investment.
Most of the respondents were from the Midwest, with somewhat smaller percentages in the northeast and south, as opposed to the west (i.e., California). And, in a statistic that would likely still shock lefties, 71% identified as Christian, with 51% of those self-identifying as an evangelical or “mainline Protestant.”
Overall, the study reaffirms what Joel Pollak and I wrote in How Trump Won about where his support resided and why people were attracted to Trump. It was the natural, predictable and obvious response to Barack Obama’s 2012 publicly announced strategy of ignoring working-class whites in favor of highly educated elites and the poor. Trump’s promise to Make America Great Again was a clear statement of his intent to make Americans great again, including the forgotten majority. That anyone would be surprised at the outcome is the real mystery that needs to be studied.
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