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A look at demographics of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists

Political scientist Robert Pape analyzed the identities of the 377 people who were arrested in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

An image of pro-Trump rioters storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
An image of pro-Trump rioters storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
REUTERS/Ahmed Gaber

It can be unfair, bordering on dangerous, to attribute political motivations to racism without clear evidence. (Of course, sometimes, the evidence is quite clear.)

But it would also be willful self-imposed blindness to ignore the various indications that the fierce devotion of Trumpists, or many Trumpists, to Donald Trump and Trumpism has something to do with racism, or race anxiety among whites who see rising numbers of non-whites in the U.S. population as we approach the point where the non-Hispanic white portion of the U.S. population will fall below 50 percent. (Depending on various factors, it’s currently around 60 percent.)

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Paul Waldman’s column in Tuesday’s Washington Post was rooted in one compelling statistic, borrowed from research done by University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape, who analyzed the identities of the 377 people who were arrested in the violent, lethal, Trump-incited Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol Building.

The 377 people did not come from pro-Trump counties. In fact, the majority of them came from “blue counties that [Joe] Biden won comfortably,” Pape found. But he also analyzed recent demographic changes in the home counties of the protesters, leading him to this finding:

“By far the most interesting characteristic common to the insurrectionists’ backgrounds has to do with changes in their local demographics: Counties with the most significant declines in the non-Hispanic White population are the most likely to produce insurrectionists who now face charges.”

To restate that for emphasis or clarity: Those protesters who did enough to get arrested and charged with crimes came from counties that both were carried by Biden, and, while still majority white, have recently experienced a significant increase in non-whites in their populations.