Like others US presidential races before it, the 2016 election was more than a contest of differing policy positions. To many Americans, it was a referendum on the direction their country is heading. For supporters of Hillary Clinton, the victory of the Trump-Pence ticket felt like a sharp turn toward social conservatism, and more disturbingly, toward xenophobia, homophobia, racism, and sexism.
But they shouldn’t completely panic, because the reality isn’t so simple. Undeniably, it’s disturbing that even if voters didn’t agree with Donald Trump’s nasty rhetoric, millions of them were willing to overlook it. But contrary to what the election result implies, surveys show the US is on the whole trending toward inclusion, pluralism, and social values and policies that don’t match many of Trump’s views. Here are some noteworthy statistics about the attitudes of the American people:
The increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the US makes the country a better place to live, according to 58% of Americans surveyed by Pew Research. Only 7% of Americans responded that it made the country worse. In contrast, in the UK—where a backlash against immigrants in part drove Brexit—just 33% of Britons said their country was better for growing racial and ethnic diversity, while 31% said it was worse because of it.
A majority of Americans (59%) say immigrants strengthen the US through their hard work and talents. Many less (33%) say immigrants burden the country by taking jobs, housing, and health care. Positive views of immigrants grow stronger with each passing generation, too, and a majority of both Democrats and Republicans feel undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the US legally if they meet certain requirements.
Same-sex marriage has the backing of 55% of Americans, versus 37% who oppose it. The number supporting same-sex-marriage has been steadily increasing since 2009.
Abortion should be legal, say 56% of Americans surveyed by Pew Research. Just 41% are against it. There is a strong partisan divide here and a great deal of debate, but even so, opinions on abortion have held remarkably steady in the US for decades. That isn’t likely to change suddenly now.
There’s strong opposition to Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but 58% of those living in the US favor replacing it with a federally funded program that would provide all Americans with insurance.
Even though the president-elect has called climate change a Chinese ploy to steal American jobs, 64% of those living in the US say they are fairly or greatly worried about global warming, compared to just 36% who are slightly or not at all concerned. Concern over the topic reached an eight-year high in 2016, according to Gallup.
* * *
Beyond these individual policy issues, it’s worth noting that even though Trump won the presidency with 279 electoral votes, Clinton is on pace (as of publication time) to take the popular vote. In fact, Democrats have won more votes than Republicans in six of the last seven presidential races.
Clearly there was a broad level of support for liberal ideals, if not the liberal candidate herself, in this election. Qualified as she may be, Clinton is an unpopular politician. She failed to get supporters to the polls, and the election was decided in former Democratic Rust Belt strongholds where voters didn’t see her as the agent of change they wanted.
Again, it may be unsettling that Trump’s supporters were able to disregard his more virulent rhetoric, and even more so that a rash of racist attacks has broken out following Trump’s win. But that doesn’t mean the country has abandoned the principles of inclusion and pluralism en masse.
Certainly it shouldn’t. The population is growing more diverse than ever, and even Donald Trump can’t stop it.