Looking to the past, not the future. Feeling lost, resenting immigrants. Feeling broke, picked on. Self-medicating, rejecting education. Wanting a rule-breaking leader to end the misery.
These are some of the characteristics of white working-class voters who were three times more likely to support Donald Trump in the 2016 election, according to an expanded analysis of more than 3,000 people surveyed before and after the election by PRRI/The Atlantic of white Americans who are marked by “cultural dislocation.”
“These new results show that feelings of cultural displacement and a desire for cultural protection, more than economic hardship, drove white working-class voters to support Trump in 2016,” says PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “The findings cast new light on how Trump’s ‘Make American Great Again!’ slogan tapped these fears and anxieties and a deep sense of nostalgia for a previous time in the country when white conservative Christians perceived that they had more power and influence.”
The PRRI survey is remarkable in ways its press release doesn’t quite say. It suggests Trump’s supporters don’t do well distinguishing between their feelings and factual circumstances. Take their relative economic class—they’re not necessarily poor, but they aren’t satisfied. They don’t like what they see, but want someone else to fix it. They’re traumatized and lash out. Many are inclined to blame others and self-medicate, yet reject self-betterment through higher education. The survey shows that lots of people in overlooked America vote based on their frustrations and darker emotions.
“Compared to cultural factors, economic factors were less strong predictors of support for Trump,” PRRI’s press release said, using neutral language. But what are cultural factors besides personal biases, beliefs and perceptions unfettered by fact-based realities?