The Public Religion Research Institute, in coordination with The Atlantic, conducted a survey that revealed some surprising information about Trump voters among the white working class. In particular, it shattered the myth that economic hardships alone motivated voters to choose him.
Here are some highlights of the survey, which interviewed 3,043 adults by telephone after choosing their numbers at random from a pool of existing numbers. It selected for the working class by choosing those who are “white, non-Hispanic Americans without a four-year college degree who hold non-salaried jobs.” While this, like almost all surveys, is not definitive, it presents some striking conclusions:
1. Trump voters are more affluent than previously thought.
The media narrative told us that Trump voters were the poor and dispossessed who, being broke, resented those who were not. The reality turns out to be that among the working class, the voters who favored Trump were more financially secure:
Notably, while only marginally significant at conventional levels (P<0.1), being in fair or poor financial shape actually predicted support for Hillary Clinton among white working-class Americans, rather than support for Donald Trump. Those who reported being in fair or poor financial shape were 1.7 times more likely to support Clinton, compared to those who were in better financial shape.
In other words, these people are not at the edge of desperation, but are looking ahead and seeing only darkness. This coincides with their concerns being more social than economic across the board.
2. Trump voters are most concerned with loss of national identity and culture.
For example, Trump voters were those more likely to see a vanishing America being replaced by an immigrant America in which college-educated elites administer Leftism as a replacement for the original American culture. A clear pattern of concerns emerges:
- Nearly two-thirds (65%) of white working-class Americans believe American culture and way of life has deteriorated since the 1950s.
- Nearly half (48%) of white working-class Americans say, “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.”
- Nearly seven in ten (68%) white working-class Americans believe the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence. In contrast, fewer than half (44%) of white college-educated Americans express this view.
- Nearly seven in ten (68%) white working-class Americans—along with a majority (55%) of the public overall—believe the U.S. is in danger of losing its culture and identity.
- More than six in ten (62%) white working-class Americans believe the growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens American culture, while three in ten (30%) say these newcomers strengthen society.
Taken together, these different data points show distrust of foreign influence, immigration, and the Leftist agenda which has accelerated in the postwar period. Instead, we see that they are concerned with culture, way of life, and identity specifically.
3. Trump voters realize that college is a scam
One of the biggest stories of the last few years has been the growing power of Leftist opinions on college campuses and their tendency to eliminate other viewpoints and discriminate against white men. This has led to strong suspicion of college itself.
- White working-class voters who said that college education is a gamble were almost twice as likely to express a preference for Trump as those who said it was an important investment in the future.
This is explained by the following:
- More than half (52%) of white working-class Americans believe discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities, while 70% of white college-educated Americans disagree.
A values split, based on the realizations above, has caused Americans to realize that colleges are indoctrination camps that churn out people who bleat the Leftist party line, and therefore, this group sees decreased utility in college. They realize that between affirmative action and campus Leftism, white men especially will not get anything good out of college.
4. Trump voters are liberated from union propaganda.
Better even at brainwashing than colleges, unions raised the cost of America and then essentially died as labor was outsourced wherever a union was present. The reason for this was the cost in addition to the raised wages of workers: lawsuits, shutdowns, riots, sabotage and bad press.
Companies realized they could not operate factories that could be shut down at any minute, and so they opted for labor outside of the union worker pool. In so doing, they ejected most of the white working and middle class from union affiliation, at which point these groups reversed their Leftist direction and instead shifted to the Right.
Despite the white working class’ historical connection to labor unions, relatively few members of the white working class today have a union member in their household. Only 14% of white working-class Americans report living in a household with someone who is a member of a labor union.
Perhaps the voters have wised up to the scam: the union comes in, wages rise, quality goes down as jobs become specific “by the book” and non-competitive, and then all the jobs go away. In the meantime, the unions — who always seem allied with organized crime and the Democrat party — skip out of town with huge sums of money raised from companies and workers alike.
White working-class Democrats are almost twice as likely as white working-class Republicans to live in a union household (21% vs. 12%, respectively).
Burned once, the working class is less likely to support “systems” like college and unions, and more likely to rely on open markets and cultural links, such as those provided in a strong nationalistic culture. In other words, some learning about the past may have come about.
5. The young are swinging to the Right.
Much like their parents, who have come out of the union stupor and learned to distrust people who get vested in the system through college, young people appear to be moving in the direction of recognizing Leftism itself as a scam:
A majority (57%) of white working-class young adults identify as Republican or lean towards the GOP, compared to only 29% who identify as or lean Democratic—a gap of 28 percentage points.
Contrary to some biases in the media, this wave does not appear to emerge out of religion:
Nearly half (47%) of white working-class young adults are religiously unaffiliated, compared to 36% of young adults overall.
Twenty-eight percent of white working-class Americans say they attend services at least once a week, 30% say they attend occasionally (once or twice a month or a few times a year), while more than four in ten (42%) say they seldom or never attend religious services.
Where atheism and Leftism have been linked in the past, what is coming now appears to be a general agnostic wave paired with a desire for socially conservative values.
6. There is a divide between those vested in the system and those who are not.
The system rewards two things: being part of a minority group, or being an obedient white person who adopts the de rigueur Leftism and goes to college, gets a job in a big city, and then reaps the rewards.
Notably, about four in ten white working-class Americans report that they grew up in “middle-class” (29%) or “upper-class” (11%) households. In contrast, only about four in ten white college-educated Americans report that their family’s financial standing when they were growing up was “working class” (35%) or “lower class” (6%). Additionally, white college-educated Americans are more likely than the white working class to be raised in middle-class (42%) or upper-class households (16%).
In other words, these are the people the system selected against, not life failures. 40% of them have middle class or above backgrounds but remain in the “working class” (often indiscernible from the lower middle class) because they did not follow the path to success. From my experience, this means people who threw in the towel on the system and went their own way, accepting lower reward in exchange for independence from the mental compliance requirements of middle class jobs.
7. Healthcare was not a huge personal risk.
While Obamacare was not popular among Trump voters, it is not because they lost health insurance:
In contrast, nearly one in five (19%) white working-class Americans under the age of 65 say they do not currently have health insurance, including one-quarter (25%) of white working-class Americans under 30.
8. They have experiences that prove Robert Putnam was right.
Robert Putnam wrote that the presence of diversity decreases social trust in a community. This includes trust within each ethnic group. Further research confirms that diversity creates distrust in local communities and creates atomized, rootless individuals.
The survey includes quotations from participants, one of which exhibits exactly what Putnam talked about:
“And when I talk about values, I don’t mean necessarily my spiritual or religious values but family, community. Could you really go across the street and ask that neighbor, ‘Can I borrow a cup of milk?’ Which, in my neighborhood, we can, but it’s pretty rare. I don’t know most of my neighbors. Have lived there for quite a long time. When I walk down the street with my dog or over to the pound with my dog, there’s no eye contact.” —Man
Trump voters express a basic sense of unease: they feel their culture has been eroded, and what they see are the post-1950 changes through social and political Leftism in the country, coupled with the rise in diversity.
8. They support a “fash wave.”
These voters desire both a more authoritarian candidate, and one who is willing to break the rules, which in a highly democratic time means violating the principles and protections that democracy has erected so that he can get something done.
Fifty-eight percent of white working-class men, compared to more than seven in ten (71%) white working-class women, have authoritarian sympathies.
This is closely tied to a suspicion of immigration and diversity:
More than seven in ten (71%) white working-class Americans who believe immigrants are a burden on American society have an authoritarian orientation. In contrast, fewer than half (49%) of those who believe immigrants strengthen American society have an authoritarian disposition.
They are deliberately going against the attitudes of the elites, much as they rejected college:
Six in ten (60%) white working-class Americans, compared to only 32% of white college-educated Americans say we need such a strong leader; two-thirds (67%) of white college-educated Americans disagree.
Interestingly, this does not correlate to economic distress.
White working-class Americans who say they are in good or excellent financial shape express as much support for a leader who is willing to break the rules as those in only fair or poor shape (58% vs. 60%, respectively).
In other words, this is concern for the future and not the present, in which they think “the rules” are impeding what needs to be done.
9. They are born identitarians.
If any warning to Washington emerges from this survey, it is that voters want a strong culture and identity and have correctly identified diversity as an impediment and threat to that.
More than two-thirds (68%) of white working-class Americans—along with a majority (55%) of the public overall—believe the U.S. is in danger of losing its culture and identity.
They target diversity:
More than six in ten (62%) white working-class Americans believe the growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens American culture, while fewer than one-third (30%) disagree.
And recognize anti-discrimination law as a huge problem:
More than half (52%) of white working-class Americans believe discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.
In addition, the survey also revealed that 40% of white working class Americans agree that “efforts to increase diversity almost always come at the expense of whites.” In other words, society is a zero-sum game, and anything we add to it — immigration and diversity — requires taking something from the native population.
10. They have realized that diversity means removal of white people.
Although they have mixed views on diversity itself, voters at least refuse its advancement. They see it as having fundamentally changed America for the worse, and favor removing immigrants as a partial solution:
- Similarly, white working-class voters who expressed anxieties about cultural change—a composite variable that combined a belief that the U.S. needs to be protected from foreign influence and feelings of being “a stranger in my own country”—expressed a much stronger preference for Trump than those who did not (79% vs. 43%, respectively).
- White working-class voters who advocated deporting immigrants living in the country illegally overwhelmingly favored Trump, while those who favored alternative policies expressed far less support (87% vs. 49%, respectively).
Coupled with their strong identitarian tendencies above, it seems that the core issue of this election was diversity, and that they perceive it as the driver behind change in America that has left them feeling alienated.
As Samuel Huntington predicted, the 21st century has brought us the end of liberal democracy, which has faded out in unrealized promises like racial harmony, prosperity and peace, and brought us tribalism instead. In every area of real-world effect, liberal democracy brought the opposite of what it promised, whereas organic culture — as distinct from managerial “systems” — shows us promise in that it is more flexible and nurtures intangibles like culture and identity.
The rise of Donald Trump, like Brexit, was not based on the economic woes of the lower echelons of American society. This survey suggests instead that it shows a large group of normal people pulling back from the college-educated, city-living and liberal elites out of distrust for the changes that have occurred to our societies so far in the postwar period. This is values-based realistic opposition, not desperation.
Expect the mainstream media and entrenched elites in Washington to deny this and continue accelerating this separation by using language like Barack Obama’s “clinging to their guns and religion” or Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables,” both of which are dogwhistles for the classic accusations of the Left, which is that Right-wingers are ignorant, stupid and impoverished religious fanatics who are resentful over their lack of position above minority groups in this society.
The data shows us that the opposite is true: white people are content living among their own society, and are not doing economically badly, but are dismayed at how social engineering has wrecked a once great place, to the point where they have rejected Leftism, unions and our elites. Balkanization is well and fully upon us.