Three recent studies of the American electorate illuminate the upheaval in the two political parties: the first, published on Oct. 12 by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, the other two published Oct. 19 and Oct. 25 by the Public Religion Research Institute.
The UVA-IASC survey highlighted the political and cultural gulf between upscale, predominately Democratic whites and downscale, predominately Republican whites.
The first group, “the Social Elite” in UVA-IASC’s terminology, is made up of whites with advanced degrees. They are 49 percent Democratic, 16.8 percent Republican. 87.5 percent say the Democratic Party represents their views very or fairly well, compared to zero percent who say the Republican Party represents them very well and 24.2 percent who say that it does so “fairly well.” They plan to vote for Clinton over Trump by 74.3 to 14.1 percent.
The second group, termed “the Disinherited” in the UVA-IASC survey, comprises religiously conservative whites without college degrees. Republicans outnumber Democrats 52.3 to 11.1, and 60.9 percent say the Republican Party represents their views very or fairly well. They plan to vote for Trump by 74.3 to 13.5 percent.
The two PRRI surveys use more traditional terminology, but the findings reinforce those of the UVA-IASC study.
PRRI shows how much the Trump wing of the Republican Party sees itself as the underdog, while Clinton supporters recognize their privileged position in today’s economy:
About seven in ten likely voters supporting Donald Trump (72%) say American society and way of life has changed for the worse since the 1950s, while seven in ten likely voters supporting Hillary Clinton (70%) say things have changed for the better.
These patterns are repeated in the pronounced class differences among whites:
A majority (56%) of white college-educated Americans say American society is generally better now than it was in the 1950s, while nearly two-thirds (65%) of white working-class Americans say things are now worse.
White evangelical Protestants have the bleakest view of all: “Nearly three-quarters (74%) say American culture has changed for the worse since the 1950s.”