There’s an ongoing debate in the chattering classes about the deepest motives of those who support Donald Trump for president. One theory is that it’s cultural change — epitomized by immigration and the spread of non-Christian religious views — that makes these folks tick. Another is that it’s a product of economic inequality and insecurity. Those who hold the latter view tend to think Trump has some natural appeal to Bernie Sanders voters, to the point of sometimes seeming to suggest that Trumpenproletariats just need to bone up on their Piketty in order to find their true gospel in democratic socialism.
But now comes the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Brookings with a new survey that adds powerful ammunition to the "It’s the Culture, Stupid!" faction. It covers many issues related to the changing demographics of America and the perceived impact on the culture for good and for ill. And it does not always break out Donald Trump supporters from broader categories like Republicans and white, working-class members. But where it does, it paints a pretty clear picture of a group of people who absolutely hate the changes taking place in this country since the 1950s, and will support almost any measures to turn back the clock.
You can get a full sense of the comparative views of Trump supporters by reading the entire report, but just listing some of their perceptions in a row will give a good sense of how strongly these folks resent cultural change:
- 77 percent say it bothers them to come into contact with people who speak little or no English.
- 81 percent say discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against minorities.
- 77 percent say discrimination against Christians in the U.S. is a major problem.
- 83 percent say the American way of life needs to be protected against foreign influences.
- 83 percent say the values of Islam are at odds with America’s values and way of life.
- 80 percent say immigrants constitute a burden on American society.
- 68 percent say the country has changed mostly for the worse since the 1950s.
And here’s the scariest one:
- 72 percent say we need a leader who is willing to break some rules to set things right.
There wasn’t a follow-up question about the willingness to break some heads, but I think we all know the answer to that one.