Slate on Wednesday published an interview with Robert Pape, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago who has spent the last year analyzing the demographic background of Capitol rioters.
Slate described his conclusions about the rioters as "sobering" and in particular pointed to his "research that tied rioters’ home counties to the areas that had lost the most white population in recent years."
While speaking with Slate, Pape said that he was surprised that so many of the rioters were doctors, lawyers, and other well paid professionals, and not the kind of people who usually fall in with extremist militas.
"When you look at this, it’s just one category after another after another that shouts out mainstream," he said. "The Jan. 6 insurrectionists really are best understood as a product of the mainstream."
Pape then explained how he and his team of researchers went about trying to learn just how mainstream MAGA rioters' beliefs are among the general population, and found them to be surprisingly widespread.
"21 million American adults agree with two radical beliefs: one, that the use of force to restore Donald Trump to the presidency is justified, and two, that Joe Biden stole the 2020 election and is an illegitimate president," he said. "That is, 21 million don’t hold just one of those beliefs—they hold both of those beliefs. It’s 8 percent of the body politic, but that’s really significant. That really can’t easily be characterized as just the 'fringe.' We normally would think the 'fringe' would be 1 percent or less."
Underlying these two beliefs, Pape said, was the "great replacement" conspiracy theory that claims the American government is systematically trying to replace native-born white Americans with people of color from other countries.
"When you ask questions about their belief in 'the great replacement,' you see that that is head and shoulders the No. 1 belief that’s driving the difference between being in the 21 million versus being in the rest of the body politic," he explained.
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