Investigating Divisions in Social Group Attitudes in the Age of Trump

Contemporary popular discourse commonly claims that American society exhibits polarization not only in values or policy preferences, but in people’s attitudes towards various social groups. While social scientists have long demonstrated interest in such group attitudes, they have rarely explored systematic heterogeneity within them. We expand our understanding of group attitudes in two ways. First, we consider the broadest set of measures to date—attitudes towards 17 groups across various domains. Second, we employ latent class analysis and relational class analysis to disentangle how people feel about the range of groups from the underlying logics that organize those opinions. We find that, while a substantial proportion of Americans express group attitudes that exhibit marked polarization consistent with the contemporary positions of the Democratic and Republican Parties, the rest of Americans–a majority–express attitudes that do not conform to contemporary partisan discourse.