When Hillary Clinton dismissed half of Donald Trump’s supporters as belonging to a “basket of deplorables,” much of the debate that followed focused on attempts to quantify what percentage of Trump’s supporters actually held bigoted views.
But the statement, which Clinton quickly walked back in scope, also raised a more fundamental, if uncomfortable question ― whether holding an abhorrent viewpoint makes someone an abhorrent person.
Clinton described the “deplorables” as being “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic ― you name it.” So, in a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, we asked Americans how they’d describe people who hold negative views of Muslims, black people, women, gay people and immigrants. Did that make them bad people, prejudiced but not necessarily bad, or neither of the above?
The results show Americans’ discomfort with outright condemning people who hold bigoted views.
Most of those polled fell into the middle category, saying that disliking an entire race, religion, gender or other class of people was prejudiced, but didn’t necessarily make someone a bad person.
That sentiment was generally consistent across demographic lines, varying only in intensity. Less than 30 percent of people any age group, racial group, gender or party were willing to say that any of the negative views tested made someone a bad person.
Black Americans were consistently more likely than white Americans to say that biases made someone a bad person, although a majority still rejected that characterization. Twenty-six percent of black Americans, compared to just 10 percent of white Americans, say that holding negative views of black people makes someone a bad person. Black respondents were also notably more likely than whites to take a similar stance on discrimination against Muslims, women and gay people.
Age factored most prominently in attitudes toward anti-gay bias. Eighteen percent of those under age 30, compared to just 4 percent over age 65, said that negative views of gay people made someone a bad person. Americans in the youngest age group were also 12 points less likely than those in the oldest age group to see nothing wrong with holding negative views toward gay people.
Democrats and Republicans expressed largely similar views about people who disliked blacks. But most Democrats say that negative views about Muslims made some prejudiced, but not necessarily a bad person, while the majority of Republicans don’t even consider such views to be prejudiced. A majority of Democrats and independents say that negative views of women, immigrants and gay people count as prejudice, while Republicans are closely divided between describing people holding those views as prejudiced and saying that they’re not.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Sept. 14-Sept. 15 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls.You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.