The Sunday Magazine

Arlie Hochschild says Trump supporters experience a "secular rapture"

It's a simple question that political scientists and researchers are still struggling to answer. Why are Donald Trump's supporters so loyal? Arlie Hochschild is an author and a much-honoured sociologist. For five years, she travelled the bayous and backwaters of one of the poorest states in the American union, Louisiana. What she found by talking to Trump supporters, was that politics is never simple, and people don't always fit into stereotypes outsiders create for them. Her book is called "Strangers in Their Own Land."

Five years ago, sociologist Arlie Hochschild left the friendly confines of left-wing Berkeley, California, and ventured into the heart of Tea Party country, to Louisiana, a state with strong support for the right wing of the Republican Party.

At the end of the day, it's not that they love Trump, it's that they don't see anything else speaking to their needs.- Arlie Hochschild

For five years, she worked to understand what she calls the "deep story" of the people who live there, voters who are now invested in the election of Donald Trump.

She came to the conclusion that Trump offers these voters a kind of salvation, with his promises to "raise people up" to join him among the 1% of America's wealthiest. It's a powerful, quasi-religious message that is almost impossible to counter.

Hochschild wrote about her findings in her latest book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, which was a finalist for a National Book Award for Nonfiction. 

Arlie Hochschild is the author of nine books, three of which have been named Notable Books by The New York Times. She is professor emerita in the department of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. 

She spoke with Michael in October 2016, shortly before the presidential election. 

Click the 'listen' button above to hear Michael's interview with Arlie Hochschild.