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Trump Supporters: Racist, Perhaps; Islamophobic, Absolutely

That’s the view of one prominent political scientist.
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Donald Trump supporters at a campaign rally at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Donald Trump supporters at a campaign rally at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Hillary Clinton has apologized for calling half of Donald Trump’s supporter base “a basket of deplorables” driven by “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” sentimentsat a fundraiser last Friday.

But some liberal commentators have since replied that the statement, while perhaps not helpful to her politically, is absolutely true. “The national media has spent a year and a quarter documenting in exquisite, redundant detail the rabid, anti-intellectual nationalistic bigotry of Trump’s hard-core fanbase,” Jonathan Chait wrote in New York magazine on Monday — a statement that, according to one prominent political scientist, is founded in research.

“There is some data indicating that a majority of Republicans express racially prejudiced and Islamaphobic beliefs,” University of California–Irvine political scientist Michael Tesler, the author of the book Post-Racial orMost-Racial: Race and Politics in the Obama Era,writes in an e-mail. “For example, 54% of Republicans in the 2016 American National Election Studies Pilot Survey rated most blacks as more violent than most whites, compared to 20% of Democrats.”

Quantifying racial prejudice is tricky, Tesler adds. “The vast majority of Trump supporters express racially resentful beliefs like blaming racial inequality on cultural deficiencies among blacks,” he writes. “But what to call that remains a hotly debated topic both inside and out of academia.”

“The evidence is much clearer that the modern GOP is a basket of Islamaphobia,” Tesler writes. “In that same 2016 ANES survey, 67% of Republicans rated most Muslims as more violent than most whites, compared to 25% of Democrats.”

“And a majority of Republicans in that survey said Obama is a Muslim. Trump’s primary supporters, of course, scored much higher on these measure than the GOP as a whole,” he writes. While that belief was repeated at the Republican National Convention, it is, in fact, false.

Whether these beliefs qualify as “deplorable” is a judgment call — but they certainly sound like they fall under the category of “ignorance.”