The three authors go on:
Animosity toward Democratic-linked groups predicts Trump support, rather remarkably, across the political spectrum. Further, given the decisive role that Independents can play in elections, these results suggest that reservoirs of animosity are not necessarily specific to a particular party, and may therefore be tapped by any political elite.
Before Trump took center stage in 2015, Republican leaders were determined to “stymie Democratic policy initiatives, resist compromise, and make it clear that Republicans desire to score political victories and win back power from Democrats,” Kane wrote in his email, but “establishment Republicans generally did not openly demonize, much less dehumanize, Democratic politicians at the national level.”
Trump, Kane continued,
wantonly disregarded this norm, and now Trump’s base may come to expect future Republican elites to be willing to do the same. If this practice eventually comes to be seen as a “winning strategy” for Republican politicians as a whole, it could bring us into a new era of polarization wherein Republican cooperation with the “Demon Rats” is seen not just as undesirable, but thoroughly unconscionable.
Most significantly, in Mason’s view, is that
there is a faction in American politics that has moved from party to party, can be recruited from either party, and responds especially well to hatred of marginalized groups. They’re not just Republicans or Democrats, they’re a third faction that targets parties.
Bipartisanship, Mason continued in a lengthy Twitter thread, “is not the answer to the problem. We need to confront this particular faction of Americans who have been uniquely visible and anti-democratic since before the Civil War (when they were Democrats).”
In their paper, Mason, Wronski and Kane conclude:
This research reveals a wellspring of animus against marginalized groups in the United States that can be harnessed and activated for political gain. Trump’s unique ability to do so is not the only cause for normative concern. Instead, we should take note that these attitudes exist across both parties and among nonpartisans. Though they may remain relatively latent when leaders and parties draw attention elsewhere, the right leader can activate these attitudes and fold them into voters’ political judgments. Should America wish to become a fully multiracial democracy, it will need to reconcile with these hostile attitudes themselves.
Adam Enders, a political scientist at the University of Louisville, and Uscinski, in their June 2021 paper “On Modeling the Social-Psychological Foundations of Support for Donald Trump” describe a “Trump voter profile”: “an amalgamation of attitudes about, for example, racial groups, immigrants and political correctness — that rivals partisanship and ideology as predictors of Trump support and is negatively related to support for mainstream Republican candidates.”
In an email, Enders described this profile as fitting those attracted to Trump’s
relatively explicit appeal to xenophobia, racial prejudice, authoritarianism, sexism, conspiracy thinking, in combination with his outsider status that gives him credibility as the anti-establishment candidate. The Trump voter profile is a constellation of social-psychological attitudes — about various racial groups, women, immigrants, and conspiracy theories — that uniquely predict support for Donald Trump.
Uscinski and Enders are the lead authors of a forthcoming paper, “American Politics in Two Dimensions: Partisan and Ideological Identities versus Anti-Establishment Orientations,” in which they argue that
Our current conceptualization of mass opinion is missing something. Specifically, we theorize that an underappreciated, albeit ever-present, dimension of opinion explains many of the problematic attitudes and behaviors gripping contemporary politics. This dimension, which we label “anti-establishment,” rather than explaining one’s attitudes about and behaviors toward the opposing political coalition, captures one’s orientation toward the established political order irrespective of partisanship and ideology.
In the case of Trump and other anti-democratic leaders around the world, Uscinski and Enders contend that
anti-establishment sentiments are an important ingredient of support for populist leaders, conspiratorial beliefs, and political violence. And, while we contend that this dimension is orthogonal to the left-right dimension of opinion along which partisan and ideological concerns are oriented, we also theorize that it can be activated by strategic partisan politicians. As such, phenomena which are oftentimes interpreted as expressions of “far-right” or “far-left” orientations may not be borne of left-right views at all, but rather of the assimilation of anti-establishment sentiments into mainstream politics by elites.
Anti-establishment voters, Uscinski and Enders write, “are more likely to believe that the ‘one percent’ controls the economy for their own good, believe that a ‘deep state’ is embedded within the government and believe that the mainstream media is ‘deliberately’ misleading us.” Such voters “are more prevalent among younger people, those with lower incomes, those with less formal education, and among racial and ethnic minority groups. In other words, it is groups who have historically occupied a tenuous position in the American socio-economic structure.”
The most intensely partisan voters — very strong Democrats and very strong Republicans — are the least anti-establishment, according to Uscinski and Enders:
Those on the extremes of partisan and ideological identity exhibit lower levels of most of these psychological predispositions. In other words, extreme partisans and ideologues are more likely to express civil attitudes and agreeable personality characteristics than less extreme partisans and ideologues; this contradicts growing concerns over the relationship between left-right extremism and antisocial attitudes and behaviors. We suspect this finding is due to strong partisans and ideologues being wedded to, and entrenched within, the established political order. Their organized, relatively constrained orientation toward the political landscape is built on the objects of establishment politics: the parties, party elites and familiar ideological objects.
That, in turn, leads Uscinski and Enders to another contrarian conclusion:
We find that an additional “anti-establishment” dimension of opinion can, at least partially, account for the acceptance of political violence, distrust in government, belief in conspiracy theories, and support for “outsider” candidates. Although it is intuitive to attribute contemporary political dysfunction to left-right extremism and partisan tribalism, we argue that many elements of this dysfunction stem from the activation of anti-establishment orientations.
One politician whose appeal was similar to Trump’s, as many have noted, was George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, who ran for president four times in the 1960s and 1970s, openly using anti-Black rhetoric.