Jump to content

Republican radicalization takes its toll


Recommended Posts

October 26, 2023

The findings in this year’s Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) annual American Values Survey are a disturbing reminder that, regardless of the political fortunes of four-time-indicted former president Donald Trump, the MAGA movement he spawned has radicalized millions of Americans.

The poll, conducted in partnership with the Brookings Institution, surveyed more than 2,500 Americans on everything from trans rights to QAnon to racism.

The survey’s great value comes as a warning about the radicalization and alienation of a segment of the major parties’ followers. “Today, nearly a quarter of Americans (23%) agree that ‘because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country,’ up from 15% in 2021,” the survey found. “PRRI has asked this question in eight separate surveys since March 2021. This is the first time support for political violence has peaked above 20%.” A full third of Republicans believe this, compared with 13 percent of Democrats. Meanwhile, QAnon believers have jumped from 14 percent of Americans to 23 percent, with Republicans twice as likely as Democrats to buy into the extreme conspiracy theory.

Clearly, authoritarianism has made greater inroads among Republicans than other groups. “About half of Republicans (48%) agree with the need for a leader who is willing to break some rules, compared with four in ten independents (38%) and three in ten Democrats (29%).”

Meanwhile, in a positive sign of public sanity, “Overwhelming majorities of Americans today support teaching the good and the bad of American history, trust public school teachers to select appropriate curriculum, and strongly oppose the banning of books that discuss slavery or the banning of Advanced Placement (AP) African American History.” Moreover, “A solid majority of Americans also oppose banning social and emotional learning programs in public schools.” Though some Republicans have made “anti-wokeism” a key requirement of their political identity, their message is deeply unpopular. “Fewer than one in ten Americans favor the banning of books that include depictions of slavery from being taught in public schools (7%), compared with 88% who oppose such bans.”

Sixty percent say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, compared with 37 percent who say it should be illegal in most or all cases. In a political reversal, “Democrats are now significantly more likely than Republicans to say their support for a candidate hinges on the candidate’s position on abortion,” 50 percent vs. 38 percent.

With their sympathies for authoritarianism, radical ideology and banning abortion, many Republicans, especially the GOP’s main base of White evangelical Christians, are out of step with the rest of the country. For example: “White evangelical Protestants stand out as the major religious group most opposed to the legality of abortion (75%).” That is a far higher percentage than for any other religious group, and only 17 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans support criminalization of abortion.

Many in the GOP fold rely on getting information from right-wing propaganda outlets that push the “big lie.” (Disclosure: I am an MSNBC contributor.) “More than six in ten Republicans (63%) continue to say that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, compared with 31% of independents and 6% of Democrats. Two-thirds of Americans who most trust Fox News (65%) and nearly all Americans who most trust far-right news outlets (92%) believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.”

Unsurprisingly, the partisan gap when it comes to Trump’s legal conduct is enormous:

Six in ten Americans (60%) agree with the statement that it is likely that former president Donald Trump broke the law to try to stay in power after losing the 2020 election, while 38% disagree.
About one-quarter of Republicans (27%), compared with 60% of independents and 92% of Democrats, believe Trump broke the law to try to stay in power. Americans who most trust Fox News (26%) or far-right news outlets (3%) are least likely to believe Trump broke the law to stay in power after losing the election, compared with a slim majority of Americans who do not watch TV news (52%) and eight in ten Americans (80%) who most trust mainstream news.

Many Republicans are also outliers when it comes to the continuing effects of racism:

A majority (53%) of Americans agree that generations of slavery and discrimination against Black people and Native Americans have given white people unfair economic advantages, compared with 41% who disagree. Majorities of Republicans (65%) and independents (40%) disagree with this statement, compared with only 22% of Democrats.
White Christian subgroups are significantly more likely than other religious groups to disagree with this statement. About two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants (65%) ... disagree that the legacy of slavery and discrimination against minorities has created unfair economic advantages for white people.

Most frightening is how many Republicans buy into white Christian nationalism, a racist ideology that rejects the basic premise of our democracy: “All men are created equal.” One-third of Americans but 52 percent of Republicans agree that “God intended America to be a new promised land where European Christians could create a society that could be an example to the rest of the world.” The number is even higher among White evangelical Protestants (54 percent). Americans who subscribe to white Christian nationalism are more than twice as likely as other Americans to say true patriots might have to resort to violence to save the country.

In a related question, 75 percent of Republicans think the Founders wanted America to be a Christian nation with Western European values.

Though three-quarters of Americans say democracy is at stake in the next election, only slightly more (57 percent) say Trump’s election threatens democracy than say President Biden’s reelection threatens democracy (53 percent). There is an inescapable racial element at work:

More than two-thirds of Black Americans (70%) and Hispanic Americans (67%) say the reelection of Trump poses a threat to American democracy. White Americans are divided about Trump being a threat to democracy (51% agree vs. 47% disagree). By contrast, nearly six in ten white Americans (59%) and 52% of Hispanic Americans, but only one-third of Black Americans (34%), say the reelection of Biden poses a threat to democracy.

Taking a step back, the overall picture here is a country that is inclusive, respectful of religious differences, pro-democracy and supportive of women’s rights — except when it comes to the largely Republican, mostly White evangelical Christians who reject these fundamental ideas.

When a sizable portion of one of the major political parties, aided by a right-wing propaganda machine and infused with religious fervor, rejects the basis for multiracial, multicultural democracy, we face a severe crisis. Even if Trump does not return to the White House, this radicalized segment will not disappear. How we reintegrate millions of Americans into reality-based, pro-democracy politics in a diverse country remains the great challenge of our time

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...