Two new polls of Donald Trump supporters reveal some unusual attitudes that may help puzzled political pundits to explain the rapid rise of the New York real estate mogul and reality TV star to the top of the Republican Party and in position to quickly lock up the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
Trump's rise has generally been attributed to "voter anger." As recently as Tuesday, before Trump's latest victory in the Nevada Republican caucuses became official, United States House Speaker Paul Ryan claimed that Trump's shocking ascendance can be traced to widespread anger over President Barack Obama's economic policies.
"You have conservatives, like myself... who are very upset about the direction of the country," Ryan said in a CNBC interview. "You have people in America panicked because they have economic anxiety."
Other political analysts have likened the extreme popularity of Donald Trump to the surprising success of Democratic "outsider" candidate Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, saying both are the result of "anti-establishment anger."
In the following video, liberal political journalist Ezra Klein attempts to understand the appeal of Donald Trump.
But the recent, separate polls by YouGov and Public Policy Polling — and reported in the New York Times on Tuesday — reveal that a significant portion of the Trump's supporters are motivated not simply by anger at economic policy that they perceive as misdirected, or even in a general sense at "the establishment," but, in fact, by something less socially acceptable.
According to the data compiled by YouGov, nearly 20 percent — about one in every five — of Donald Trump supporters "disagree" with the Emancipation Proclamation, the 1863 executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln which freed all slaves in Confederate states.
But that seemingly bizarre result may be explained in part by the response to a Public Policy Polling question which asked Republican voters in South Carolina whether they believed that "whites are a superior race."
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Overall, 10 percent of South Carolina Republican primary voters agreed that whites are a "superior race." But among Donald Trump supporters, that number was 16 percent, close once again to one of every five, and 14 percent of Trump supporters — also higher than supporters of any other candidate — said they were not sure about the answer to that question.
While the openly racist attitudes found in the polls were shared by a minority of Donald Trump supporters — albeit a larger minority than among backers of any other Republican candidate —a recent survey revealed another unsettling trend among those who say they will vote for the hotel and casino impresario.
Most surveys break down support for Trump, or any political candidate, by ethnicity, income level, education level, and other demographic factors, as Trump himself acknowledged in his Nevada victory speech Tuesday night, as seen in the following video excerpt.
Trump has confounded analysts by drawing support across most such boundaries — but a study conducted by political scientist Matthew MacWilliams showed that there is one trait that does statistically predict whether a voter will become a Donald Trump supporter.
According to MacWilliams, that trait is "authoritarianism."
"People who score high on the authoritarian scale value conformity and order, protect social norms, and are wary of outsiders," MacWilliams wrote on the political site Vox on Tuesday. "And when authoritarians feel threatened, they support aggressive leaders and policies."
In a national survey conducted through the University of Massachusetts, MacWilliams found that whether voters become supporters of Donald Trump could not be predicted by their age, geographic location, income, or education.
The findings may help to explain why Donald Trump supporters, according to the most recent polls, are giving the 69-year-old businessman and entertainer a significant lead in almost every Super Tuesday state, and with it, a near-certain lock on the Republican presidential nomination.
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