Even critics of that conclusion agreed that the study attributed Trump’s success to racial anxiety. “The [PRRI]-Atlantic survey is just one of the latest attempts to assure liberals and leftists that Trump supporters are unsympathetic,” wrote the National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty.
But according to one of the study’s authors, to claim that economic anxiety does not matter to Trump’s white, working-class supporters is, at best, an oversimplification.
“We aren’t saying that,” said the author, PRRI’s Dan Cox. “Obviously, there’s a lot more to understanding this group, to appreciating the challenges that they’re going through.”
Why did so many read the study differently?
Some of it, undoubtedly, is a product of the high stakes for the Democratic Party. Democrats see the question as crucial for understanding both what went wrong in 2016 and the unresolved debate between primary rivals Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders about the direction of the party in the future.
And some of it is the nature of writing on the Internet.