New York Times
By Lynn Vavreck
February 23, 2016
Exit poll data from the South Carolina primary revealed that nearly half the Republicans who turned out on Saturday wanted undocumented immigrants to be deported immediately. Donald Trump won 47 percent of those voters.
Voters were asked if they favored temporarily barring Muslims who are not citizens from entering the United States, something Mr. Trump advocates, and 74 percent said they did. He won 41 percent of that group.
Mr. Trump, who handily won that South Carolina primary and all its delegates, is attracting Republican voters across demographic groups — conservatives, moderates, evangelicals and those who are not born-again Christians. In a sense, he is uniting parts of the party that have been on opposite sides of recent nomination battles.
A new set of public opinion survey results asking atypical but timely questions has shed some light on the Trump coalition. The results suggest how Mr. Trump has upended the contemporary divide in the party and built a significant part of his coalition of voters on people who are responsive to religious, social and racial intolerance.
New data from YouGov and Public Policy Polling show the extent to which he has tapped into a set of deeply rooted racial attitudes. But first, two caveats about these data are worth bearing in mind. The national YouGov survey was done near the middle of January, before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries. Public Policy Polling is a company aligned with the Democratic Party, and some of its results over the years have been suspected of bias. Taken by itself, its conclusions could be doubted. Taken with the YouGov and exit poll data, however, these three surveys can give us a better idea of Mr. Trump’s backers.
Mr. Trump’s support among those who say they support a temporary ban on Muslim entry into the United States — a notion Mr. Trump first advanced in early December — is significant. He won more than twice as many supporters of the ban in South Carolina as any other candidate. Voters often echo the things candidates say on the campaign trail, so that level may not be revelatory.
Possibly more surprising are the attitudes of Mr. Trump’s supporters on things that he has not talked very much about on the campaign trail. He has said nothing about a ban on gays in the United States, the outcome of the Civil War or white supremacy. Yet on all of these topics, Mr. Trump’s supporters appear to stand out from the rest of Republican primary voters.
Data from Public Policy Polling show that a third of Mr. Trump’s backers in South Carolina support barring gays and lesbians from entering the country. This is nearly twice the support for this idea (17 percent) among Ted Cruz’s and Marco Rubio’s voters and nearly five times the support of John Kasich’s and Ben Carson’s supporters (7 percent).
Similarly, YouGov data reveal that a third of Mr. Trump’s (and Mr. Cruz’s) backers believe that Japanese internment during World War II was a good idea, while roughly 10 percent of Mr. Rubio’s and Mr. Kasich’s supporters do. Mr. Trump’s coalition is also more likely to disagree with the desegregation of the military (which was ordered in 1948 by Harry Truman) than other candidates’ supporters are.
The P.P.P. poll asked voters if they thought whites were a superior race. Most Republican primary voters in South Carolina — 78 percent — disagreed with this idea (10 percent agreed and 11 percent weren’t sure). But among Mr. Trump’s supporters, only 69 percent disagreed. Mr. Carson’s voters were the most opposed to the notion (99 percent), followed by Mr. Kasich and Mr. Cruz’s supporters at 92 and 89 percent. Mr. Rubio’s backers were close to the average level of disagreement (76 percent).
According to P.P.P., 70 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters in South Carolina wish the Confederate battle flag were still flying on their statehouse grounds. (It was removed last summer less than a month after a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston.) The polling firm says that 38 percent of them wish the South had won the Civil War. Only a quarter of Mr. Rubio’s supporters share that wish, and even fewer of Mr. Kasich’s and Mr. Carson’s do.
Nationally, the YouGov data show a similar trend: Nearly 20 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters disagreed with the freeing of slaves in Southern states after the Civil War. Only 5 percent of Mr. Rubio’s voters share this view.
Mr. Trump’s popularity with white, working-class voters who are more likely than other Republicans to believe that whites are a supreme race and who long for the Confederacy may make him unpopular among leaders in his party. But it’s worth noting that he isn’t persuading voters to hold these beliefs. The beliefs were there — and have been for some time.
Mr. Trump has reinvigorated explicit appeals to ethnocentrism, and some voters are responding.
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