Poll: Trump and the GOP's Fascist Rhetoric Has Broad Appeal

Tim Dickinson / Rolling Stone
Poll: Trump and the GOP's Fascist Rhetoric Has Broad Appeal Trump supporters rally in Washington, D.C. (photo: John Minchillo/AP)

“There is a significant market for openly authoritarian ideologies in the United States,” says an academic who oversaw the new poll

Donald Trump’s fascistic rhetoric about how immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the country, as well as the GOP’s embrace of the “great replacement theory,” are repellent to many Americans. But for a startling number of people, new survey results exclusively provided to Rolling Stone reveal, the message that immigrants pose a dark threat to the nation is being met with enthusiasm — or a dangerous shrug of indifference.

More than a third of Trump’s 2020 voters — 35 percent — agree with Trump’s claim, parroted from fascists before him, that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” according to survey results from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll. Only 32 percent of Trump voters and 37 percent of Republicans outright disagree with the Nazi slogan.

Trump first started using the blood-poisoning rhetoric late last year, ratcheting up his longstanding hateful declarations that migrants are “rapists,” “murderers,” or “animals.” The notion that immigrants are corrupting the national bloodline, though, directly echoes Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Trump believes this fascist rhetoric works for him, and has privately said that “poisoning the blood” is a “great line,” a source previously told Rolling Stone.

A solid 54 percent of Americans disagree with the blood-poisoning sentiment — and 39 percent “strongly.” More worrisome, a full quarter of the country is roughly neutral to it; they “ neither agree nor disagree” with the pollster’s phrasing. The survey indicates that Trump’s fashy talk may not deter voters who are not already repelled by the former president. The messaging is, however, decidedly objectionable to Latinos, 64 percent of whom disagree, as well as 80 percent of liberals.

For an academic who oversaw the polling, the results are sobering: “There is a significant market for openly authoritarian ideologies in the United States,” says UMass Amherst political science professor Jesse Rhodes. “It would be naive to think that these ideas will eventually just wither away on their own,” he adds, insisting that those who recognize their danger need to be “persistent and loud in challenging them.”

Perhaps more disheartening, the UMass Amherst pollsters also surveyed ideas buttressing the “great replacement theory.” The GRT is a racist conspiracy theory that falsely asserts that a shadowy cabal of globalists, often supposed to be Jews, is opening the floodgates of immigration to purposefully erode the influence of white Americans, by adding new voters of color who will back the cabal.

The theory — once only a fringe fascination of white nationalists — has been mainstreamed by right-wing media personalities like Tucker Carlson, X owner Elon Musk, and high-ranking GOP politicians like Trump and Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York. Stefanik infamously alleged that “Democrats desperately want wide-open borders and mass amnesty for illegals allowing them to vote.”

The pollsters asked voters several GRT-adjacent questions, including whether “the growth in the number of immigrants in the country means that America is in danger of losing its culture and identity” and whether “some elected officials want to increase immigration in order to bring in obedient voters who will vote for them.”

Two-thirds of Trump voters agree with the statement about identity loss, and a full 76 percent agree with the conspiracy theory about “obedient voters.” (Incidentally, this is the exact same percentage of Trump voters who want to see the former president empowered to be a dictator for a day, in part so he can fortify the border.)

In the poll’s most surprising result, a plurality of Americans, 43 percent, either strongly or somewhat believe the “obedient voters” theory, while only 29 percent of voters reject it. “It would be easy to dismiss the great replacement theory as a white supremacist fever dream. But this simplistic view would significantly understate the theory’s appeal,” says Rhodes, the political scientist.

He highlights that significant numbers of Democrats (24 percent) and independents (41 percent) align themselves with its tenets. Even substantial blocs of Black, Asian, and Latino voters are drawn to the falsehood, Rhodes says, indicating “many Americans of color are also anxious about immigration,” and that this “anxiety makes them vulnerable to pernicious, xenophobic conspiracy theories.”

The challenging reality, Rhodes insists, is that “the great replacement theory doesn’t fall neatly on ideological lines — its appeal is much broader.” Amid a national mood soured by dramatic economic, social, and technological change, Rhodes argues, the great replacement idea “works like a conspiracy theory ‘should,’ providing a neat, tidy explanation for events — and identifying the culprits for the instability.”

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