Except among a tiny minority of far-left Americans, political correctness (P.C.) is deeply unpopular. Some 80 percent of people said they viewed P.C. excess as a problem.
That’s according to a fascinating survey conducted by More in Common, an international research initiative. The researchers asked respondents dozens of questions about race, immigration, sexism, free speech, and other hot button issues, and then sorted them into seven different categories: progressive activists, traditional liberals, passive liberals, the apathetic, moderates, traditional conservatives, and devoted conservatives. The two conservative categories constituted 25 percent of the total; the progressives, just 8 percent.
Everyone else, according to the researchers, form an “exhausted majority” whose views are not so different from one another, even across racial and gender lines.
“Most members of the ‘exhausted majority,’ and then some, dislike political correctness,” wrote The Atlantic‘s Yascha Mounk in a terrific write-up of the survey. “Among the general population, a full 80 percent believe that ‘political correctness is a problem in our country.’ Even young people are uncomfortable with it, including 74 percent ages 24 to 29, and 79 percent under age 24. On this particular issue, the woke are in a clear minority across all ages.”
“Youth isn’t a good proxy for support of political correctness—and it turns out race isn’t, either,” Mounk observes.
The best proxies are education level and income: the most highly educated Americans are more likely to think hate speech is a big problem, but political correctness is not.
I’ve written several articles for Reason about political correctness and the extent to which a backlash against it may have helped Donald Trump win the presidency. Voters who cited political correctness as a top issue were particularly smitten with the tell-it-like-it-is candidate, and being angry about PC-run-amok was a top indicator of whether a person voted Republican in 2016. Tons of people who wrote to me about political correctness said they voted for Trump specifically because they feel the language is moving away from them too quickly—that everyone is always offended all of the time, and the humble Trump voter simply doesn’t know what to say in order to survive in our newly woke culture.
It’s always tempting to make too much of this, because many of the people who were most upset about political correctness were probably going to vote for the Republican candidate regardless. But More in Common’s findings add credence to my sense that downplaying the concerns of the anti-PC supermajority is a bad campaign strategy for any would-be Trump challenger. “Progressive activists” have a lot of cultural cachet, but there just aren’t very many of them. As Mounk put it:
The gap between the progressive perception and the reality of public views on this issue could do damage to the institutions that the woke elite collectively run. A publication whose editors think they represent the views of a majority of Americans when they actually speak to a small minority of the country may eventually see its influence wane and its readership decline. And a political candidate who believes she is speaking for half of the population when she is actually voicing the opinions of one-fifth is likely to lose the next election.
In a democracy, it is difficult to win fellow citizens over to your own side, or to build public support to remedy injustices that remain all too real, when you fundamentally misunderstand how they see the world.
Take a look at the full survey here.