Here’s a fascinating interview with the University of Chicago’s Robert Pape, who has been studying the demographics of the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6th:
It’s not surprising that this group was overwhelmingly white and male. Some of Pape’s other findings are less immediately intuitive:
(1) Compared to the standard conventional profile of members of right wing extremist movements in the USA, this group was markedly older — two thirds were 35 or older, and majority were in their 40s and 50s.
(2) The typical insurrectionist was a socially and economically successful middle-aged white man. Very few were unemployed, and most were either professionals, small business owners, or middle management types. Most were married and had children.
(3) Very few of the insurrectionists — about 10% — were affiliated with recognized right wing extremist groups: militias, the Proud Boys, etc.
(4) The majority came from counties that voted for Biden. These counties were largely urban or suburban. The more rural a county was, the less likely it was to be the home of an insurrectionist.
(5) The single strongest predictor of where the insurrectionists came from was the relative decline in recent years in the percentage of the county’s population made up of non-Hispanic whites.
(6) Pape’s work also reveals that a strong commonality among the insurrectionists is a belief in some version of the so-called Great Replacement theory: the white supremacist conspiracy theory that national and (((global))) elites are manipulating demographics and the legal system to replace white people with non-whites, in order to use the latter to take over the country/world. What’s particularly striking about Pape’s work in this area is the extent to which it illustrates that, in the United States, this belief is centered on the idea that Blacks and Hispanics in particular are now being given “more rights” than white people (You can find a gussied up version of this belief in the writings of people such as Andrew Sullivan and Bari Weiss. Key terms: Cancel culture, critical race theory, 1619 project, etc.).
(7) Pape did a high quality national survey that reveals that approximately 4% of the US population believes the election was stolen by Biden and the Democrats, and supports using violence to combat this purported theft. That’s around 10 million adults. This is the cohort from which the insurrectionists were drawn. Tens of millions of others, however, believe the election was stolen, but do not currently claim to support using violence in response to this crime/conspiracy.
Pape’s work suggests, among other things, that standard ideas about what the extremist right wing in America looks like are too simplistic and/or rapidly becoming outmoded: It’s not a bunch of socially marginal economic losers who are alienated from the mainstream of ordinary American life.
Pape doesn’t put it this way, but increasingly, it’s just a bunch of Republicans.