If you tuned in to Tucker Carlson every night, you’d be told again and again that white supremacy is a hoax, invoked by liberals to smear the modern Republican Party and divide the country.
But though the Fox News host has millions of viewers, his controversial takes may not accurately reflect the views held by a majority of GOP voters.
A new VICE News/YouGov poll found that 60 percent of Republican respondents actually identified white supremacist extremism as a “problem” facing the U.S. ahead of the upcoming midterms (compared to 93 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Trump voters). A slightly larger percentage of Republican voters—63 percent—also consider “right-wing extremism” a problem in the U.S.
The poll, taken the week of Oct. 17, surveyed American adults on a range of issues, including abortion, weed, President Biden, the 2020 election, and extremism.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many responses to the survey fell starkly along partisan lines, particularly when it came to identifying issues that voters were most concerned about. That was also true for responses to the question about white supremacist extremism.
Although around two-thirds of Republicans identified white supremacist extremism as a problem overall, only 23 percent consider it to be a “major problem”—compared to 73 percent of Democrats and just half of respondents overall.
And 40 percent of Republicans don’t consider white supremacy to be a problem whatsoever.
That’s contrary to the view of the FBI, which has classified white supremacist extremism as a top domestic terrorism threat in the U.S. This summer, FBI Director Chris Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the biggest terror threat facing the U.S. was from racially motivated violent extremists, “including those who advocate for the superiority of the white race.” Wray also said that white supremacist extremists were responsible for the majority of deadly attacks in recent years.
The VICE News/YouGov poll found that around 20 percent of Republicans and Trump voters think that the problem of white supremacist extremism is getting better, compared to 14 percent of Democrats and 9 percent of Biden voters.
Nearly 70 percent of Democrats think white supremacy in the U.S. has gotten worse, compared to 26 percent of Republicans.
Opinions on whether white supremacy is a serious problem facing the U.S. also diverged along racial lines. Less than half of white respondents—44 percent—identified white supremacy as a major problem, compared to 69 percent of Black respondents and 57 percent of Hispanic respondents.
White supremacy can be a politically polarizing category in and of itself. At its most basic, white supremacist extremism can be understood as the hordes of torch-wielding neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the summer of 2017. But the white gunman who targeted Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo earlier this year was also widely labeled as a white supremacist. Prior to his attack, he left a racist screed online that referenced the “great replacement theory” as a motivation for his attack. That theory is a core tenet of modern white supremacy that falsely claims immigrants and nonwhite people are embroiled in a conspiracy to make white people a minority in the U.S.
In recent years, the central tenets of the “great replacement theory” have shown up on Fox News and in MAGA candidates’ stump speeches. One Yahoo/YouGov poll from earlier this year found that 6 out of 10 Trump voters agreed with its central claims.
Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers and activists have spent the last few years waging a war against critical race theory, the broad label used to describe education that teaches kids about the history of white supremacy in the U.S. and how it shaped institutions. Trump called that kind of education “unAmerican,” a line that has since been repeatedly used to discredit and downplay any discussion of white supremacist extremism.