Campaign 2016: Where the Splits Are

American Values Survey shows sharp divisions: Democrats vs. Republicans, white working class men and white evangelicals vs. everybody else

Compared to prior years, the U.S. population is more sharply polarized on political and – to some extent – class and religious grounds, the new American Values Survey shows.

The annual survey, released by the Brookings Institution on Oct. 25, highlights the partisan divisions of this contentious election season. It also shows, in class terms, a gulf: Working class white men and white evangelical Protestants versus virtually everybody else.

Robert Jones, executive director of the Public Religion Research Institute, which carried out the survey for Brookings, called the 2016 presidential contest between Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump “a referendum” on competing visions of the U.S.

The Trump backers, clustered in those two white groups, look backwards to the 1950s, the survey showed. The other voters – African-Americans, Latinos, white college-educated voters, Catholics – look forwards, he added.

“The white Christian voters lean to the Republicans and everyone else leans to the Democrats,” Jones said. That includes Catholics, who now split 50-50 between Clinton and Trump, four years after GOP nominee Mitt Romney won them by 19 percentage points.

The Trump supporters harken back to an era “when white Christians in particular had more political and cultural power in the U.S.,” Jones said. Most of those two groups, including three-fourths of the white evangelical Protestants, say U.S. culture “has changed for the worse” since the 1950s, he added. The survey’s other findings include:

Clinton has a negative image, Trump even more so. Clinton comes in at 41 percent positive-57 percent negative overall, but Trump is 2-to-1 negative (33 percent-65 percent). Even former GOP President George W. Bush (45 percent-53 percent) does better than Trump, though the Republican Party overall (36 percent-60 percent) does not. The overall view of the Democratic Party is a tie (49 percent-48 percent), within the poll’s 1.7 percent margin of error. But Democrats can’t take solace in that: Six in ten voters believe neither party represents their views. In 1990, just under half said so.

The two nominees tie on honesty — or lack of it — but Clinton leads on almost everything else. Just 45 percent trust Clinton and 44 percent trust Trump, and they tie at 47 percent for being “a strong and decisive leader.” But Clinton leads by double digits in all six other characteristics. Her smallest lead is 52-40 in “cares about people like you,” including two-thirds positive among Hispanics and three-fourths among blacks. Clinton leads by two-to-one among all voters in “has the right background and experience” to be president.

Trump’s complaints about election fraud sunk in with the GOP, as 41 percent say their votes will be counted accurately, compared to 70 percent of Clinton supporters. The big

split here is also about the biggest problem with the election: Two-thirds of Trump supporters say voter fraud – which even GOP election officials say is virtually non-existent – is a bigger problem than voter disenfranchisement (17 percent). But five of every eight Democrats (62 percent) name disenfranchisement as the top election problem. Fraud gets 19 percent.

That reflects the raft of GOP-passed so-called “voter ID” laws that have attempted to toss workers, blacks, Latinos, women, the elderly and college students off the voter rolls.

The country is evenly split on whether we’ve become better or worse. The pollsters report 51 percent of voters say the nation changed for the worse, culturally, since the 1950s, while 48 percent say it’s changed for the better. But “worse” wins white evangelicals by a 3-to-1 ratio and Republicans and the white working class by 2-to-1. Democrats, the religiously unaffiliated and Hispanic Catholics all, by 2-to-1 ratios, say it’s changed for the better. College-educated whites say it’s better by a 56-44 percent margin.

More than four in ten Democrats say the U.S. is on the right track. A huge GOP majority says no. By 42 percent-36 percent, Democrats plump for “right track” versus “wrong track for a long time,” with rest saying “wrong track for the last few years.” But 49 percent of the GOP says “wrong track the last few years,” and another 42 percent say “a long time.”

Half of men, and two-thirds of women, say the U.S. would be better off if more women held office. That contrast drew expected laughter from the crowd at Brookings. The survey split was extremely partisan: 77 percent of Democrats said electing more women would be better, compared to 37 percent of Republicans, including 42 percent of GOP women.

Regardless of party, two-thirds of voters agree there’s a double standard for women seeking office, with women having to prove themselves better qualified than men. That includes 57 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of independents and 80 percent of Democrats.

Harm from “free trade” is one of the few areas where the white working class agree with others. Overall, half of respondents agree that “free trade agreements are mostly harmful because they send jobs overseas and drive down wages,” while 43 percent agree with the statement that “free trade agreements are mostly helpful because they open markets for U.S. companies and allow Americans to buy goods more cheaply.”

White working class respondents call free trade pacts harmful by almost a 2-to-1 margin, and all whites vote against them by a 54 percent-39 percent score. White college grads favor the free trade pacts, 49 percent-42 percent. But, despite labor’s strong campaign against the jobs-losing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), only one-third list free trade as a top issue in determining their vote. Another 56 percent call it “one among many critical issues.”

$15 an hour gets 60 percent overall support. Backing for doubling the minimum

wage, now $7.25, comes from Democrats (80 percent), African-Americans (80 percent) and Latinos (73 percent). Whites favor it 53 percent-46 percent. A 35 percent-64 percent score among Republicans against doubling the minimum wage drags down white support.

Don’t build the wall. Trump’s brainstorm to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border gets a thumbs up vote from Trump backers (86 percent), Republicans (73 percent) and the white working class (56 percent) and thumbs down from everybody else: Clinton backers (88 percent opposition), Democrats (80 percent), independents (62 percent), college-educated whites (65 percent), Hispanic-Americans (76 percent) and African-Americans (74 percent). Overall, 40 percent of the voters want to build the wall and the rest don’t.

Don’t uniformly bar Muslims. The threat of terrorism tops voters’ issue lists, the survey shows, and Trump pins that threat on Muslims alone. But by a 56-43 percent margin, voters don’t agree with his planned solution: A blanket Muslim ban. Opposition to the ban is even higher among African-Americans (72 percent) and Hispanic-Americans (62 percent).

Raise taxes on the rich. By a 72 percent-27 percent margin, respondents favored increasing taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year. The pro-tax hike score has gone up by 11 percentage points in the last four years, the detailed data adds.

The system is rigged. Eighty-four percent say corporations don’t share enough of their success with their workers, while 78 percent say the U.S. economic system “unfairly favors the wealthy.” Both figures are virtually unchanged since last year.

But while 57 percent also say their votes don’t count because the rich and corporations control politics and elections, that’s down from 64 percent the year before. The “votes don’t count” share stayed at 64 percent among the white working class, though.

Voters split on welcoming the proverbial “man on a white horse” to ride to the rescue. A bare majority (52 percent) opposes the need for “a leader who is willing to break some rules to set things right,” while 46 percent favor the idea. That includes majorities of the white working class (55 percent), Republicans (55 percent) and Hispanics (51 percent). The college-educated hugely disagree, with 70 percent opposed, as do 57 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of African-Americans.

Source: PAI