In a windowless room in a swanky hotel half a block from the White House on Friday afternoon, three of the most visible leaders of the alt-right movement held a two-hour press conference to discuss their affection for Donald Trump and their hopes for a white homeland. The white supremacist alt-right movement has grown over the last eight years or so, incubated in racist forums like StormFront and meme-loving corners of the internet like 4chan and 8chan. Its members generally share a disdain for political correctness, feminism, zionism, Jews in general, immigration (especially Hispanic and Muslim immigration), and anyone who criticizes them for holding these views.
And the alt-right won substantial mainstream media attention when Hillary Clinton gave a speech last month excoriating Donald Trump for some of his staffers’ ties to it. Clinton’s team zeroed in on the campaign’s new CEO, Steve Bannon, who formerly helmed a website that he himself once described as “the platform for the Alt-Right.” And prominent alt-right figures, including two of the men who helmed Friday’s press conference, told The Daily Beast last month that they were delighted Trump hired him.
Many reporters have been hesitant to give the alt-right much media attention. But since Clinton made their existence part of her anti-Trump campaign pitch, there’s significant public interest in who they are and what they believe. And they’re loving it.
The three alt-right leaders who gathered in D.C. this afternoon made two things very clear: They think white people are genetically predisposed to be more moral and intelligent than black people, and they do not want to share their envisioned utopian ethno-state with folks of the Jewish persuasion. There’s some disagreement in the alt-right on what they refer to as “the Jewish question.” But the big take-away was that Jews are suspicious.
Donald Trump appears to have high levels of support among the nation’s intolerant population, according to a New York Times deep dive into polling data.
The Times found that nearly 20% of Trump supporters did not approve of freeing the slaves, according to a January YouGov/Economist poll that asked respondents if they supported or disapproved of “the executive order that freed all slaves in the states that were in rebellion against the federal government”—Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Trump himself has never advocated for white supremacy, but some of his followers may. He has, however, called for a moratorium on Muslims entering the United States and called Mexican migrants “rapists.”
Exit polls from the Republican South Carolina primary reveal that 74% of voters in the state favored the Muslim ban—Trump won 41% of that group, according to the Times, which described Trump supporters as a “coalition of voters on people who are responsive to religious, social and racial intolerance.”
The theme of the last two nights has been less “Make America Safe Again” or “Make America Work Again” and more “Lock Her Up.” But some of Trump’s most diehard supporters want to go further—they want her to be executed.
“Anyone that commits treason should be shot,” Al Baldasaro, an adviser to the Trump campaign for veterans issues, told The Daily Beast. “I believe Hillary Clinton committed treason. She put people in danger. When people take confidential material off a server, you’re sharing information with the enemy. That’s treason.”
Baldasaro was expanding on a violent call he made Tuesday, when he called for Clinton to be “put in the firing line” over her mishandling of classified emails. He made these remarks on the Jeff Kuhner Show, Buzzfeed reported.
Clinton said, "you know, just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites…He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric."
Clinton went on to describe another “basket” of Trump supporters: “people who feel the government has let them down, the economy let them down, nobody cares about them.” She stressed that “[t]hose are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”
But whether Clinton is correct is a factual matter. Let’s look at the polling data.
A survey taken this May found that about two-thirds of Trump supporters believe Obama is a Muslim.
The same poll found 59 percent of Trump supporters believe Obama was not born in the United States.
These views are incorrect but are also racist and xenophobic. They are rooted in the idea that a black man with an atypical name could not be a U.S.-born Christian but must be a secret Muslim born in Africa.
So when Hillary Clinton says half of Trump supporters hold bigoted views, she may be understating the issue.
Survey data shows that significant chunks of Trump supporters hold even more extreme beliefs.
A national poll of 2000 people taken in January by YouGov found that one-third of Trump supporters believe the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, one of the most shamefully racist programs in American history, was a good idea.
Clinton also mentioned homophobia. A PPP poll of South Carolina voters in February found that a substantial portion supported banning LGBT people from the United States.
In the same poll, 16 percent of Trump supporters admitted they believed that “whites are a superior race,” while an additional 14 percent said they were “not sure.”
The national YouGov poll from January found that 20 percent of Trump supporters disagreed with Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed southern slaves.
The polling data reveals that there is a substantial number of Trump supporters that are bigoted, intolerant, or worse.
Is percentage, as Clinton suggested, about 50 percent? That depends on how you define the various forms of bigotry within the Trump coalition. But, based on the polling, Clinton appears to be more likely to be downplaying the issue than overstating it.