Podcast: A Paint-by-Numbers Portrait of the Country

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Donald Trump has defied the political establishment on his way to the 2016 Republican Party Convention. But for Robert P. Jones, the CEO of the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), understanding Trump’s base is a matter of understanding how white, Christian “values voters” have become “nostalgia voters.”

On the other side of the aisle, Senator Bernie Sanders has rallied young, religiously unaffiliated voters. According to Jones, these voters have the numbers to be an electoral force—if they continue to vote after the primaries.

Every year, PRRI conducts the American Values Survey, pulling together the opinions of some 2,700 Americans on the economy, racial discrimination, trust in public institutions, and religious and political attitudes among other topics. The survey, conducted in the fall of 2015 and titled “Anxiety, Nostalgia, and Mistrust,” painted a picture of an electorate that is worried about the country’s future, concerned about cultural change, and frustrated by economic inequality.

But the country’s demographics are undergoing a tectonic shift, and voters in the primaries might have a very different definition in the general election. According to the American Values Survey, six in 10 Americans prefer paths to citizenship for immigrants living in the country.  Gail Ablow spoke to Robert Jones, a Carnegie Corporation of New York grantee, about the changing identity of American voters.

Dr. Jones holds a Ph.D. in religion from Emory University, where he specialized in sociology of religion, politics and religious ethics. He earned an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and has a book coming out in July titledThe End of White Christian America.