Political scientists have begun leafing through data released in the 2016 American National Election Study to get a clearer sense of what exactly compelled voters to make the choices they made last November.
A number of theories have been bandied about – including voters’ increasing tolerance of authoritarian politics and economic desperation. But, increasingly, it appears as if racial animus served as a primary catalyst.
Researchers have used what is known as a “symbolic racism” scale to gauge how Americans view race as the crux of social issues. For example, it gauges voters believe a lack of effort is the primary reason for the wide economic gulf between racial demographics.
The results show that race played the largest role in informing voters’ decisions since 1988. This is thoroughly unsurprising. Trump’s trademark racism played well to his raucous crowds, who would often resort to violence against protesters or bizarrely conflate them with ISIS. This general “otherization” speaks to a deep bigotry and distrust of non-white populations.
Comparing to other scales (such as the one constructed to control for authoritarian tendencies), racist beliefs played a significantly larger role than other factors.
As Trump’s poll numbers continue to sink (with new polls suggesting that the percentage of Americans who think Trump keeps promises is plummeting at a rapid pace), hopefully the hatred unleashed in order to shore up political support will prove ultimately self-destructive, and prevent this electoral tragedy from happening again.