A new Reuters/Ipsos poll done in collaboration with the University of Virginia Center for Politics has found that while respondents by and large reject white supremacists and neo-Nazis, many share the same racial beliefs to which these vilified groups subscribe.
The poll was conducted in late August and early September, less than two weeks after the deadly white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va. About 5,360 people participated in the large-sample poll.
Respondents were asked to express varying levels of agreement or disagreement with different prompts. They also had the option of selecting a neutral answer, “Neither agree nor disagree,” as well as “I don’t know.”
A central tenet of white nationalism is the belief that white people are under attack in this country, whether it be by losing their status as a majority group (this is the basis of so-called white genocide) or by perceived “reverse racism.”
In total, 39 percent of respondents agreed to some extent that white people were currently “under attack” in the U.S. Only 29 percent of white people disagreed with the statement, compared with more than half of nonwhites (54 percent).
Nearly a third of total respondents (31 percent) agreed that the country needs to “protect and preserve its White European heritage.” The percentage of people who disagreed was only slightly higher at 34 percent.
There was also a clear partisan divide.
A strong majority of Republicans agreed to some extent that white people are under attack in this country (63 percent), which isn’t altogether surprising given the racially charged—and just outright racist—rhetoric the GOP has employed through the years. But while the rate of Democrats who agreed that whites are under attack was comparatively low, at 21 percent, that still indicates that a fifth of “progressive” respondents subscribe to one of the so-called alt-right’s core beliefs.
Most of the survey’s respondents felt that “all races should be treated equally” (89 percent) and that people of different races should be allowed to live wherever they choose (70 percent).
But survey participants didn’t express that same positivity toward Black Lives Matter, a group that advocates for the fair and equal treatment of black people under the law. Less than a third of respondents said they supported the organization—an additional 24 percent said they had neutral feelings about the group.
In fact, the percentage of people who opposed Black Lives Matter (37 percent) was similar to those who opposed anti-fascists, or antifa (39 percent).
Confederate monuments throughout the U.S. have become a cultural flashpoint. As for white supremacists, preserving these statues is central to their drive to “protect and preserve” white European heritage.
The majority of total respondents—three-fifths—expressed that Confederate monuments should remain in public spaces, compared with a quarter who said they should be removed.
More than half of black Americans said that the statues should be taken down (54 percent), but a greater portion of white people (67 percent) indicated that the monuments should stay in place.
The UVA report notes that the amount of “middling” answers—that is, respondents who neither agreed nor disagreed with statements—was striking, especially given today’s polarized political climate.
But one of the Ipso pollsters, Julia Clark, noted that neutrality isn’t quite what it appears on first glance. Clark said that this particular group was more likely to lean “toward intolerance than away from it.”
For example, she said, neutral respondents were “far less likely to condemn statements against interracial marriage and in favor of preserving white heritage.” They were also “notably less likely” to express that people of color were under attack, or that all races should be treated equally.
“In both cases, and others,” said Clark, “this makes their viewpoints more congruous with extremist, anti-equality views than more-progressive views.”
Read more, including the report and its full results and methodology, at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.