Two men in tuxedos walk past construction workers taking a break on a sidewalk in Midtown Manhattan. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Negative views on immigration and discrimination may be connected to the demographic’s rising mortality rates.

Fred Flintstone and Archie Bunker are alive and well in 2015, according to the American Values Survey released this week by the Public Religion Research Institute. More than one panelist in a Tuesday conference on the findings referenced the T.V. characters as models for understanding the feelings of white, working-class Americans on issues like immigration, racial discrimination, and criminal justice.

(PRRI 2015 American Values Survey)

With a focus on national-level concerns and the presidential election, the survey provides insight into why some Americans support the candidates they do. Particularly visible are the anxieties of white, working-class voters, who form the majority of Donald Trump’s Republican backers. Their support for Trump appears to be most closely linked to attitudes on immigration. Sixty-nine percent of Trump supporters responded that immigration is a critical issue to them personally, compared to just half of those who support other Republican candidates.

That number tracks closely with the two-thirds of white working-class Americans who feel that undocumented immigrants bear at least some responsibility for America’s current economic conditions (nearly 80 percent believe the country is still in a recession). Furthermore, some 63 percent of white, working-class respondents reported they felt “bothered” when they “come in contact with immigrants who speak little or no English,” compared to 43 percent of white, college-educated people and 48 percent of respondents overall.

White, working-class Americans also voice also a strong sense of personal discrimination against them. Nearly three-quarters of Trump supporters feel that “discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities,” compared to 57 percent of supporters of other Republican candidates and 25 percent of all Americans. Forty-two percent of Trump’s backers believe that “white men face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. today,” 12 percent more than those supporting other Republican candidates.

(PRRI 2015 American Values Survey)

White, working-class Americans’ views on discrimination against blacks and other minorities are much different. Just 47 percent disagree that minorities “receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system,” compared to 58 percent of Americans overall and much larger majorities of black (85 percent) and Hispanic Americans (67 percent).

The Trump electorate is also particularly pessimistic about the country’s future. White, working-class individuals have by far the bleakest view of America’s future, with just 42 percent believing that the country’s has its best days ahead, compared to 47 percent of white Americans overall. Black (60 percent) and Hispanic Americans (56 percent) are more optimistic.

Who cares what white, working-class Americans think? Obviously, it matters from a political perspective. But recall that this group has been making news for reasons other than its support of Trump.

A recent study found that, while death rates for virtually all other demographics are on the decline, death rates for white Americans age 45 to 54 and with a high-school education or less have risen by 22 percent since 1999. Suicides, drugs, and alcohol are believed to largely explain the increase, which may reflect bleak health and economic circumstances among this demographic.  

Hopelessness, rage, a sense of lost opportunity: These feelings seem to help explain the increased mortality rates, as well as the political values of many white, working-class Americans. It’s easy to wave them off in the form of Trump’s circus-ringleader-style rhetoric, but it may be a matter of national health to take them seriously.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  2. Four New York City police officers arresting a man.
    Equity

    The Price of Defunding the Police

    A new report fleshes out the controversial demand to cut police department budgets and reallocate those funds into healthcare, housing, jobs, and schools. Will that make communities of color safer?

  3. Equity

    The Problem With Research on Racial Bias and Police Shootings

    Despite new research on police brutality, we still have no idea whether violence toward African Americans is fueled by racial prejudice. That has consequences.

  4. photo: Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks to reporters on June 1, after a weekend of widespread protests against police violence.
    Equity

    What Mayors Are Saying About the George Floyd Protests

    As demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd spread across the U.S., city leaders offered a range of responses to the unrest.

  5. photo: an open-plan office
    Life

    Even the Pandemic Can’t Kill the Open-Plan Office

    Even before coronavirus, many workers hated the open-plan office. Now that shared work spaces are a public health risk, employers are rethinking office design.

×