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A poll released the Public Religion Research Institute and the Atlantic on Tuesday examining sentiments held by white, working class adults found that almost half surveyed felt that they had become “strangers” in their own country.
Overall, 51 percent of Americans think American culture has not changed for the worse since the 1950s, while 48 percent believe it has. Among the white, working class, 65 percent think it has changed for the worse, while 34 think it has gotten better. “Family values in general have gone to complete shit since the 1950s, [is] the best way to put it,” one female respondent said.
The poll reveals a deep divide between working-class, white Americans who did not go to college and white Americans who did:
For many white working-class Americans, the pace of cultural change has left them wondering about whether and where they fit in American society. Nearly half (48 percent) of white working-class Americans say, “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.” Slightly more than half (51 percent) of white working-class Americans disagree. In contrast, only about one-quarter (26 percent) of white college-educated Americans report they often feel like a stranger, while nearly three-quarters (74 percent) reject the notion.
Part of the white, working class’s sense of alienation appears to stem from the stifling atmosphere of political correctness and the severe social and economic punishments meted out to those who don’t toe the line. One woman told pollsters:
“It just seems like it’s gotten to the point where if you don’t agree with me or I don’t agree with you, we look at each other as wrong. And how did that become that way? How did your opinion become wrong? Everybody has an opinion about life and living, and all of a sudden it’s wrong.”
A majority of those surveyed, 55 percent, think the United States “is in danger of losing its culture and identity,” including 68 percent of the white, working class.
Other polls taken before the election have shown similar results. As Breitbart News reported a year before the presidential election took place, a majority of Americans did not identify with “what America has become” and over half did indeed “feel like a stranger” in their their own country:
Whatever failings there may be in his specific policies, Donald Trump’s campaign has tapped into a strong, visceral feeling of millions of Americans. Seeking to destroy Trump, the candidate, may further alienate the Republican party from a rapidly growing block of voters.
According to the Reuters survey, 58 percent Americans say they “don’t identify with what America has become.” While Republicans and Independents are the most likely to agree with this statement, even 45 percent of Democrats share this feeling.
More than half of Americans, 53 percent, say they “feel like a stranger” in their own country. A minority of Americans feel “comfortable as myself” in the country.
Another poll conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation and CNN a month before the election revealed that 84 percent of white, working class voters did not believe politicians in Washington, D.C. represented the views of people like them—and so did 74 percent of college-educated whites, as did 63 percent of both working-class blacks and Hispanics.
Pollsters interviewed an enormous number of politically-independent U.S. adults over a series of dates to better gage their overall sentiments:
This report is based primarily on a large national survey and a series of four focus groups conducted Dec. 12-13, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The focus group participants included white, non-Hispanic adults between the ages of 25 and 55, who did not have a four-year college degree. Groups were gender segregated and all participants identified as politically independent. The focus groups were conducted at L&E Research.
The survey was designed and conducted by PRRI in partnership with The Atlantic. The survey was made possible by generous grants from Open Society Foundations and the Ford Foundation. Results of the survey were based on bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted between September 22, 2016 and October 9, 2016 by professional interviewers under the direction of SSRS. Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 3,043 adults 18 years of age or older living in the United States (1,823 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The selection of respondents within households was accomplished by randomly requesting to speak with the youngest adult male or female currently living in the household.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. Pollsters described white, working class adults as “people without college degrees or salaried jobs.”