First, it is increasingly true that highly educated Americans are finding more reasons to distrust—whether that’s the highly-educated progressive who distrusts her highly-educated neighbor with a Trump sign in their yard, or that degreed, Trump-supporting neighbor with doubts about the veracity of the 2020 election.
Second, as the 2020 More in Common report notes, whereas the crisis of distrust for many working-class Americans can be rooted in experiences of familial or community traumas, as we’ve discussed previously at IFS, the distrust that many highly-educated Americans experience tends to be rooted in ideology.
Finally, we should be clear that distrust is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it may be a sign of a healthy democracy.
But it is a symptom that all is not well in the body politic. As marriage researchers know, when distrust advances to contempt or disgust of a spouse, it’s a sign that a relationship is on life support. And that’s exactly where America seems to be today, especially with ideologically-motivated distrust. Indeed, the 2020 More in Common report found that “disgust” toward voters who voted differently is the one emotion that both Biden and Trump supporters seriously underestimated in their political opposites. For instance, 66% of Biden supporters felt disgust for Trump supporters, though Trump supporters estimated only 43% of Biden supporters felt such disgust. A similar dynamic was true for Trump supporters, though not as strong: 49% actually felt disgust toward Biden supporters, though still above the estimated 38% that Biden supporters guessed.