“According to a 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center, for example, only 17 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning Americans said there is “a lot” of discrimination against Black people in today’s society. That number rose to 26 percent when Republicans were asked whether they believed white people faced “a lot” of discrimination. And intense white racial resentment remains present both among Trump’s base and in our politics today. Case in point: Trump, who’s a (very, very early) favorite to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is still hitting that same drum; during a recent political event, the former president went so far as to falsely claim that white people were currently being discriminated against and sent to the “back of the line” when it came to receiving COVID-19 vaccines and treatment.”
“Trump is not the first white person to feel like a victim of discrimination or to make claims in that spirit. This phenomenon started long before him. But in the U.S., if we look at things like the racial wealth gap, mortgage denial rates, COVID-19 vaccination and illness rates, police violence rates or myriad other data sets, we quickly see plenty of systemic biases against Black Americans and other minority groups (such as increasing hate crimes against Asian Americans). You can’t, however, find such widespread evidence for anti-white discrimination. So why have many white Americans started to see themselves as the victims of racial discrimination?”
“On Jan. 18, 1943, a ban on sliced bread was imposed by Secretary of Agriculture Claude R. Wickard, who held the position of Food Administrator. According to the New York Times, officials explained that “the ready-sliced loaf must have a heavier wrapping than an unsliced one if it is not to dry out.” The outcry among homemakers was loud enough for Wickard to discover that there was enough wrapping paper to rescind the ban — giving permanent life to the compliment, “the greatest thing since sliced bread.””
“You can understand why the White House would welcome a new Reuters poll finding more than three in five Americans say they’d “willingly” pay more at the gas pump to support Ukraine in its war with Russia.
Of course, Americans also say they plan to exercise more, eat more vegetables and watch more documentaries on television.”
“In the absence of a direct attack, the patience of Americans fades. The shocks at the gas pumps in 1973 and 1979 were inflicted by OPEC, but Richard Nixon and later Jimmy Carter bore the political cost. Today, Republicans may stand and cheer during the State of the Union address when Biden assails Russia, but they are already blaming the president’s environmental and energy policies as the cost of gasoline rises, and that blame is likely to have political resonance.
All of which suggests that Biden and the Democrats may be wise not to put much stock in those encouraging poll numbers. History suggests they will have a half-life that will fade well before November.”
“A study published last September in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences challenges the notion that a substantial minority of Americans—more than two-fifths, according to some reports—condone political violence. The Dartmouth political scientist Sean
Westwood and his co-authors argue that “documented support for political violence is illusory, a product of ambiguous questions, conflated definitions, and disengaged respondents.”
Westwood et al. acknowledge that partisan animosity, a.k.a. “affective polarization,” has “increased significantly” during the last few decades. “While Americans are arguably no more ideologically polarized than in the recent past,” they say, “they hold more negative views toward the political opposition and more positive views toward members of their own party.” But at the same time, “evidence suggests that affective polarization is not related to and does not cause increases in support for political violence and is generally unrelated to political outcomes.” So what are we to make of claims that more than a third of Americans believe political violence is justified?
“Despite media attention,” Westwood et al. note, “political violence is rare, amounting to a little more than 1% of violent hate crimes in the United States.” They argue that “self-reported attitudes on political violence are biased upwards because of disengaged respondents, differing interpretations about questions relating to political violence, and personal dispositions towards violence that are unrelated to politics.”
Westwood et al. estimate that, “depending on how the question is asked, existing estimates of support for partisan violence are 30-900% too large.” In their study, “nearly all respondents support[ed] charging suspects who commit acts of political violence with a crime.” These findings, they say, “suggest that although recent acts of political violence dominate the news, they do not portend a new era of violent conflict.”
These conclusions are based on three surveys in which Westwood et al. presented respondents with specific scenarios involving different kinds of violence, varying in severity and motivation. “Ambiguous survey questions cause overestimates of support for violence,” they write. “Prior studies ask about general support for violence without offering context, leaving the respondent to infer what ‘violence’ means.” They also note that “prior work fails to distinguish between support for violence generally and support for political violence,” which “makes it seem like political violence is novel and unique.”
A third problem they identify is that “prior survey questions force respondents to select a response without providing a neutral midpoint or a ‘don’t know’ option,” which “causes disengaged respondents…to select an arbitrary or random response.” Since “current violence-support scales are coded such that four of five choices indicate acceptance of violence,” those arbitrary or random responses tend to “overstate support for violence.”
What happens when researchers try to address those weaknesses? In all three surveys that Westwood et al. conducted, “respondents overwhelmingly reject[ed] both political and non-political violence.” And while a substantial minority disagreed, that number was inflated by respondents who were classified as “disengaged” based on their failure to retain information from the brief scenarios they read.”
“We documented the partisan trade-off bias across five studies using online samples of a total of 1,236 participants, a mix of Republicans and Democrats. As an example, in one of our studies participants were randomly assigned to view a set of policy trade-offs, some proposed by Republicans and some proposed by Democrats. The policies dealt with taxes, environmental regulation, gun control and voting rights. Participants then rated how intentional they perceived the negative side effects of each policy to be. The more participants identified with the Republican Party, the more intentional they perceived the side effects of the Democratic-proposed policies to be, and the more participants identified with the Democratic Party, the more intentional they perceived the side effects of Republican-proposed policies to be.
In a nutshell, our studies showed that the negative side effects associated with different policy trade-offs are not interpreted by opponents as side effects at all, but as intended goals of the policy.”
“The good news is that by identifying the partisan trade-off bias, our research points a path forward: Policymakers who pay more attention to this bias might be better equipped to achieve compromise. This means that rather than focusing only on the main goal of a policy, they need to communicate clearly to the public what is intentional and what is a regrettable side-effect of that goal.”
“Trump after a tumultuous four years in office actually won more of the national popular vote in 2020 than he did in 2016, 46.9 percent compared to 46.1 percent. But what sealed his fate was the collapse of the independent and third-party vote, from a combined 5.7 percent to 1.8 percent, and the transference of much of that support to the Democratic nominee. Biden improved by 3.1 percentage points over Clinton, with surveys showing that people who in 2016 voted Libertarian or Green or Constitution overwhelmingly preferred the non-Trump Democrat.”
“Because the two-party system works like a pendulum, with the centralization of executive power and attention making much of politics a referendum on the sitting president, the independent anti-vote is likely to defrock Democrats in the 2022 midterms.
“If Biden is struggling to win independents and Hispanics, that could snuff out any hope Democrats have of holding either chamber of Congress,” Skelley wrote. “After all, independents backed Democrats in the 2018 midterms and Biden last November, and even though Republicans made gains with Hispanics in places like Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, Hispanics still largely backed Biden and helped him win in key swing states, like Arizona. But if Republicans can capitalize on Biden’s weakness among these groups, that could be their ticket back to controlling Congress next year.””
“Despite a mix of coverage in the media, the prevailing message from officials seems to be “don’t panic.” The Federal Reserve predicts this period of rising prices to be “transitory,” and there are signs that price increases are starting to slow. But in the meantime, Americans are worried about inflation, and most blame the Biden administration, according to recent polls. It’s why Biden switched gears this week, going from celebrating the passage of his bipartisan infrastructure bill to addressing inflation concerns.”
“Seventy-six percent of U.S. adults said gas prices had gone up “a lot,” and 65 percent said food prices had gone up “a lot,” according to an Economist/YouGov poll conducted Nov. 6-9. One in four Americans said they spent more on groceries in October, compared with September, according to a Morning Consult poll conducted Oct. 29 through Nov. 3. And a Scott Rasmussen national survey conducted Oct. 11-13 found that 77 percent of registered voters had “recently experienced sharp increases in the cost of items they would like to buy.””
“Increased prices can impact voters’ political views of the economy overall because their effects are felt so immediately, contributing to Biden’s negative approval rating. “There is a psychology to inflation that is different from everything else, and it tends to drive how people view the economy because they experience it every day whether it is at the grocery store, gas pump or buying household goods,” John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster, told the Los Angeles Times.
Polling captures how voters are thinking about inflation as a political issue. A plurality of registered voters (40 percent) said the Biden administration’s policies were “very responsible” for the inflation, and a majority (62 percent) said the administration’s policies were at least “somewhat responsible,” according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted Oct. 16-18. In a Harvard/Harris poll conducted Oct. 27-28, 56 percent of registered voters said they weren’t confident in the Biden administration’s ability to keep inflation at bay, and 53 percent said the same about the Federal Reserve’s ability. A majority (56 percent) said that Congress passing a $1.5 to $2 trillion social spending bill (such as the one they’re currently trying to pass) would lead to more inflation.
While the public reaction is out of step with expert forecasts, their fears should not be brushed aside. Some economists theorize that, left unchecked, fears about inflation can make the situation worse by creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in which employees, afraid of rising prices, demand higher wages, the costs of which employers would then cover through raising prices, leading to higher inflation. This is what happened in the 1970s, and it led to nearly double-digit inflation rates. Regardless of how transitory the Fed thinks these price increases will be, Americans are worried right now.”
“fear-mongering is neither surprising nor new. There’s a long history of politicians erroneously representing refugees as economic burdens who pose cultural and/or national security threats to the U.S. In fact, the same arguments against Afghan asylum seekers were also deployed in 2015 and 2016 against resettling Syrian refugees displaced by their country’s civil war. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump regularly railed against the refugee policies of then-President Barack Obama’s administration, proclaiming at the Republican National Convention, “We don’t want them in our country.” Trump’s administration made this point even clearer, banning Syrian refugees and cutting the total number of refugees allowed in the U.S. by more than 80 percent.”
“Searching through the Roper Center’s database of polling questions on “refugees” since the 1930s reveals that Americans have rarely supported asylum for forcibly displaced migrants seeking safe-haven in the U.S.1 Nearly two-thirds opposed admitting 10,000 Jewish children into the U.S., who were fleeing Nazism in 1939. Even after the horrors of the Holocaust were further exposed in the post-war period, only 27 percent of respondents in a 1946 Gallup poll supported a proposed “plan to require each nation to take in a given number of Jewish and other European refugees,” compared with 59 percent who disapproved.
The public’s opposition to resettling refugees in the U.S. persisted throughout the 20th century. Polling from the late 1970s, for example, consistently showed that most Americans opposed admitting thousands of refugees from Southeast Asia in the Vietnam War’s aftermath. While support can vary by question-wording, majorities also opposed accepting Hungarian refugees in the 1950s, Cuban refugees in the 1980s and Haitian refugees in the 1990s. The same pattern once again emerged in 2015, when polls showed that few Americans wanted to take in refugees escaping the civil war in Syria.”
“Americans generally became more supportive of immigration in response to the Trump administration’s restrictive policies — a well-documented dynamic in U.S. politics where public opinion tends to move against the president’s positions. As part of that overall shift, Americans’ views of refugees shifted in the same direction. Support for accepting Muslim refugees from Syria increased in The Economist/YouGovsurveys from 38 percent in November 2015 to 52 percent in April 2017. Quinnipiac University Poll showed a similar 12-point increase in support for admitting Syrian refugees over the same 16-month time period (43 percent to 55 percent respectively); and the share of Americans saying the “U.S. has a responsibility to accept Syrian refugees” in Pew Research Center polling rose from 40 percent in October 2016 to 47 in February 2017.
The growing public support for refugees in the Trump era extended beyond the Syrian civil war. Indeed, the percentage of Americans who said that taking in civilian refugees who are trying to escape violence should be a very or somewhat important goal of U.S. immigration policy increased by double digits in Pew polls fielded in December 2016 and September 2019 (61 percent to 72 percent, respectively). Meanwhile, the share of HuffPost/YouGov respondents who said “the U.S. does not have a responsibility to take in refugees fleeing from other countries” decreased from 54 percent in 2015 to 42 percent in 2019. And 2019 polls conducted by Gallup, CNN and Fox News all showed majority support for accepting Central American refugees into the U.S.
The more welcoming context is one important reason why we’re now seeing stronger support for Afghan refugees than previous asylum seekers.”
“The majority of voters in an AugustMorning Consult poll supported relocating Afghan refugees in the U.S., while just one-third were opposed. Support was even stronger in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, where 68 percent strongly or somewhat favored the U.S. taking in Afghan refugees after security screenings. And Americans are especially supportive of Afghans who helped U.S. forces during the 20-year war, with a whopping 81-percent of those surveyed by YouGov/CBS News saying we should help Afghans who worked with American troops come to the U.S.”
“Americans have remained convinced that a terrorist attack is likely. A series of polls from The Economist/YouGov conducted from 2013 to 20211 asked what Americans think are the chances of a terrorist attack in the U.S. in the next 12 months. Those who thought an attack was “very” or “somewhat” likely rarely dipped below 50 percent and often spiked following major terrorist attacks in the U.S. or Europe. (Any time the responses rose about 70 percent, it was following a major attack.)
Similarly, Pew’s annual survey of policy priorities has found Americans rank terrorism at or near the top of the list year over year. As recently as 2020, 74 percent of Americans said defending against terrorism should be a top priority for the president and Congress, making it the number-one policy issue. Even in 2021, as the pandemic altered priorities, 63 percent of Americans still rated terrorism as their top issue, making it fourth overall, behind the pandemic, the economy and jobs.
Americans also consistently say that 9/11 has had a lasting impact on this country. In Washington Post/ABC News polls from 2001, 2002, 2011 and 2021, the proportion of Americans who said the attacks “changed this country in a lasting way” has never fallen below 83 percent, with 86 percent saying so in a survey conducted within the past month. Notably, though, the feelings on whether this is a change for the better or worse has shifted: In 2002, 67 percent of Americans said that the 9/11 attacks changed America for the better. That number has declined since, with only 33 percent saying so in 2021.”