There’s an ongoing debate about the extent to which bigotry motivated Trump voters.
Certainly, his anti-Muslim diatribes resonated with the Republican base, no matter how devoid of logic or fact. (As has been pointed out many times, immigrants from the nations singled out by Trump’s Executive Orders have been responsible for exactly zero terrorist attacks in the United States; however, had the courts not stayed them, those Orders would have affected 15,000 Doctors.)
But it wasn’t only Muslim-Americans. Trump inveighed endlessly against Mexican immigrants, used code words and stereotypes to communicate his animus against African-Americans, and defended himself (weakly) against charges of anti-Semitism by pointing out that his daughter had converted to Judaism when she married.
And of course, his “wall” was an obvious metaphor for the division between “us” and “them.”
There was a reason he was enthusiastically endorsed by the KKK and a number of equally disreputable white supremacist groups.
That said, pundits on both the left and right have protested the unfairness of attributing support for Trump to racist attitudes, rather than to economic distress and/or Hillary hatred. So recent research from the General Social Survey is illuminating. As Ed Brayton reports,
The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago does continual polling on many questions called the General Social Survey. And it shows that while American society as a whole still buys into racist stereotypes, Republicans are far more likely to hold such views.
The General Social Survey is one of the oldest, and largest, recurring surveys of American behaviors and attitudes. It collects far more data than most researchers can afford to do, and as a result, as Brayton notes, it is able to “drill down” further than most similar efforts.
The 2016 results have now been released, and they are both noteworthy and concerning.
The partisan gaps among whites were as wide or wider than we’ve seen since the survey first started asking most of these questions in the 1990s. It’s not that white Republicans’ views of African Americans have dimmed so much as that they haven’t kept pace with those of white Democrats. But in some cases, the GOP has moved in the other direction.
The biggest yawning gap between Democrats and Republicans is on the issue of motivation and will power. The GSS asks whether African Americans are worse off economically “because most just don’t have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?”
A majority — 55 percent — of white Republicans agreed with this statement, compared to 26 percent of white Democrats…
The survey also asks people to rate the races on how hard-working or lazy they are, which allows us to compare whether people rate some higher than others.
In this case, 42 percent of white Republicans rated African Americans as being lazier than whites, versus 24 percent of white Democrats.
Are we really supposed to believe that all those voters who said they liked Trump because he “tells it like it is” and “isn’t ‘politically correct'” were reacting to his position on trade?
Racism and stereotyping may be more pronounced among Republicans, but Democrats are hardly immune. Refusing to admit how consequential racism is, refusing to recognize how many of our political and social attitudes are rooted in disdain for the “Other,” distorts public discourse and perpetuates bias and misunderstanding.
America has a problem–and a blind spot.