I recently saw a study showing that Americans hold wildly exaggerated notions about the numbers of people in various minority groups–respondents guessed that Muslim Americans are 27% of the population, that Jews are 30%, and Blacks 41%, for example.(The real numbers are: Muslims, 1%, Jews, 2% and Blacks 12%.) Other group estimates were similarly inflated.
My first reaction was that the research questioned a lot of Americans who can’t add up to 100…(Maybe those who disapprove of teaching Arabic numerals.….)
When it came to sexual orientation minorities, the degree of error was even more astonishing. According to the poll, gays and lesbians were estimated at 30 percent of the population. (While estimates vary, thanks to the persistence of the closet, the article pegged the true number at around 3 percent). Respondents estimated that 29% of Americans are bisexual–the true number is somewhere in the neighborhood of 4%. And those scary transgender people were estimated at 21%; credible estimates put the number at 0.6 percent). (That’s six-tenths of one percent, not six percent!)
The article considered a number of reasons why these perceptions were so far off. One possibility was that media devotes disproportionate attention to issues involving minority communities, skewing perceptions. That led me to wonder whether we aren’t also vastly over-estimating the percentage of crazy rightwing Republicans among actual, registered voters.
Last July, Ballotpedia had a partisan breakdown of the number of registered voters in the states that allow voters to register by party and that report those totals publicly.
They reported that, in those states, 49.3 million identified as Democrats, or 39.6%. A total of 36.4 million registered voters identified as Republicans, or 29.2%. Another 38.8 million identified as independents or members of third-parties, amounting to 31.2%.
It’s worth noting that various polls lump party members with Independent “leaners,” and that there are multiple surveys and polls asking members of the general public–registered or not– which party they prefer. None of this, of course, gives us a firm handle on how many registered Republicans or Republican “leaners” are committed (and arguably commit-able) members of the MAGA base.
And that brings me to the stranglehold that base has on the GOP and policymaking. That stranglehold accounts for the wide discrepancy between public opinion–even among Republicans–and the culture war policies being pursued by elected Republicans.
Americans’ support for LGBTQ rights is higher than ever, according to a new report by Public Religion Research Institute, though two groups have “consistently lagged” in their support for key policies: Republicans and white evangelical Protestants.
Those findings, released Thursday (March 17), are part of PRRI’s 2021 American Values Atlas project, a seven-year survey measuring Americans’ support for LGBTQ rights policies.
The report comes as a number of states are considering legislation related to LGBTQ issues and as questions of whether one can refuse service to LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs are likely to come before the U.S. Supreme Court in the next year. Currently, few states have nondiscrimination protections in place for LGBTQ people.
PRRI has been polling on the issue for several years, and the number of Americans who support same-sex marriage has steadily increased . Furthermore, that increase has occurred among all political and religious groups, rising from 54% to 68%. Support for anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people is even higher, at 79%.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans (66%) also oppose religiously based refusals to serve gay and lesbian people — a number that has fluctuated while trending upward from 59% since 2015.
The outliers, as you might expect , are disproportionately Republican and White Evangelical Protestant. But even their support for LGBTQ rights has increased overall– and strong majorities of both support nondiscrimination policies.
So why are Republican politicians eagerly pursuing policies that large numbers of Americans–including significant numbers of registered Republican voters–oppose? As the director of PRRI’s research puts it:
White evangelicals are a small part of the U.S. population, Jackson noted, but they are dependable voters. And evangelical leaders have had close ties to politics and politicians for decades, she added.
“White evangelicals are about 14% of the population overall, which is certainly not what you would think by the amount of focus that they get, the amount of leverage that they seem to have,” she said.
The bottom line–and not just with respect to the wedge issues (sexual orientation, gun laws, women’s reproductive rights, etc.) beloved by MAGA culture warriors–is that all policy decisions in the United States are being held hostage by the minority of cultists who control today’s GOP.
Call that whatever you will, but you sure can’t call it democracy or majority rule.