Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

5. Populist Right

Immigration hard-liners with critical views of the economic system

Chart shows Populist Right are ...

Very conservative and overwhelmingly Republican, Populist Right hold highly restrictive views about immigration policy and are very critical of government. But, in contrast to other parts of the GOP coalition, their criticism extends well beyond government to views of big business and to the economic system as a whole: 82% say that large corporations are having a negative impact on the way things are going in the country, and nearly half support higher taxes on the wealthy and on large corporations.

Like the other two deeply ideologically conservative typology groups, Populist Right are overwhelmingly White (85%). However, in contrast to these groups, a majority of Populist Right are women (54%). Populist Right are also one of the least highly educated groups; just two-in-ten are college graduates.

Populist Right are among the groups most likely to say that illegal immigration is a very big problem in the country today, and nearly half (48%) say that the number of legal immigrants admitted to the U.S. should decrease. They hold very positive attitudes about former President Donald Trump. About eight-in-ten say they feel warmly toward Trump, and six-in-ten say they feel very warmly toward him. A majority (57%) also say Trump should run for president again in 2024.

Political affiliation, voting and engagement

Chart shows Populist Right overwhelmingly supported Trump in the 2020 election

Nearly two-thirds of Populist Right (66%) identify as Republicans, while roughly a quarter (26%) lean toward the Republican Party. Just 7% identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party.

Chart shows Populist Right: Warm toward Republicans, cold toward Democrats

A majority of this group also say they feel warmly toward Republicans, giving them an average rating of 74 on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0-100, where 100 represents the warmest, most positive feelings. This is about the same as the average rating among Committed Conservatives – 72 – and only slightly lower than the average rating of 77 from Faith and Flag Conservatives.

Populist Right were nearly unanimous in their support for Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Today, most continue to incorrectly say that Trump was the legitimate winner of the election, despite official counts showing that Joe Biden was the legitimate winner. Nearly half (47%) say that Trump definitely received the most votes cast by eligible voters in enough states to win the election, and an additional 38% say that Trump probably received the most votes. Six-in-ten also say that they like political leaders who publicly assert that Trump is the legitimate winner of the election.

Chart shows Populist Right are about average on political engagement

About two-thirds of eligible Populist Right (67%) voted in 2020, nearly identical to the share among adult citizens. Populist Right are also about as likely as average to say they follow what’s going on in government and public affairs most of the time: 35% say this, compared with 34% of all adults.

Populist Right: Key political attitudes and beliefs

Like other Republican-oriented groups, Populist Right are highly critical of government – 87% say it is “almost always wasteful and inefficient,” while 77% say “government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.”

Chart shows Populist Right: Very conservative on immigration, skeptical of both government and the economic system

But they stand out from the rest of the Republican coalition in their views about the economic system. Nearly nine-in-ten (87%) say that the economic system in this country unfairly favors powerful interests, far higher than the share in any other Republican-oriented group and more in line with groups in the Democratic coalition on this question.

A majority of Populist Right (56%) say that taxes on household income over $400,000 should be raised and that taxes on large businesses and corporations should be raised (also 56%). Fewer than half of Faith and Flag Conservatives, Committed Conservatives or the Ambivalent Right favor these tax proposals.

Nearly eight-in-ten Populist Right (78%) say that immigrants who come to the U.S. illegally generally make the communities they live in worse, including 41% who say they generally make their communities a lot worse. And about half of this group (48%) say that White people declining as a share of the U.S. population is bad for society, higher than the share saying this in any other political typology group.

Populist Right’s views of many institutions track with other GOP-oriented groups but diverge over views of corporations, financial institutions

Like other Republican-oriented groups, Populist Right generally say that the entertainment industry, technology companies and labor unions are having a negative effect on the way things are going in the country today. They are also more likely to say this about both colleges and universities and K-12 public schools than any other group aside from Faith and Flag Conservatives.

However, unlike the other Republican-oriented groups, Populist Right also say that large corporations (82%) and financial institutions (60%) are having a negative impact. Progressive Left are the only group more critical of these institutions.

Chart shows Most Populist Right say corporations, banks, tech companies, labor unions, entertainment, colleges and K-12 schools all have a negative impact on the country

Populist Right: Who they are

Populist Right are – along with Faith and Flag Conservatives – more likely than those in other groups to live in rural areas (38% of Populist Right, 39% of Faith and Flag Conservatives). They are one of the typology groups with the lowest share of college graduates: Just under half (45%) have a high school diploma or less education, while 34% have some college education but not a four-year degree.

About half of Populist Right (52%) say that their personal finances are in only fair or poor shape, similar to the share of all U.S. adults (48%) saying this. Their average income level is similar to the public’s overall, though they are somewhat more likely than average to live in middle-income households (53% do so, compared with 47% of the public overall).

Roughly half of the Populist Right (53%) are Protestants, a higher share than any group besides Faith and Flag Conservatives, and 27% are White evangelical Protestants.

Like the other Republican-oriented groups, a larger share (64%) reports getting political news from Fox News than from any other outlet among 26 national news sources asked about.

As of a late-August survey, about half of Populist Right (51%) reported being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This is identical to the share of Faith and Flag Conservatives, but lower than any other political typology group – and 19 percentage points lower than the share of all U.S. adults who reported being fully vaccinated.

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