Following the disastrous election results in November, many pundits pointed toward economic dissatisfactiont as a primary motivation for Trump supporters. While job growth under Obama outpaced the years leading up to his administration, many recently created positions have done nothing to ease the plight of the “precariat,” which includes individuals and families stuck in a cycle of precarious work, unsalaried and without benefits.
In other words, there seemed to be some logic to the argument that a scarcity of economic opportunity prompted the electoral revolt that culminated in the single least qualified candidate in modern history – Donald Trump – winning.
A recent report, however, indicates that the more compelling reasons that drove voters to support the demagogic Trump were Racism and Sexism – two prejudices that the Trump campaign displayed at nearly every turn.
Political scientists Tatishe Nteta, Brian Schaffner, and Matthew MacWilliams published a paper titled “Explaining White Polarization in the 2016 Vote for President: The Sobering Role of Racism and Sexism” in which the trio explore how Trump leveraged prejudices against race and sex in a political moment that included the first female candidate to lead a major party ticket as well as a white house run by the country’s first black president.
The 2016 campaign witnessed a dramatic polarization in the vote choices of whites based
on education…very little of this gap can be explained by the economic difficulties faced by less educated whites. Rather, most of the divide appears to be the result of racism and sexism in the electorate, especially among whites without college degrees. Sexism and racism were powerful forces in structuring the 2016 presidential vote, even after controlling for partisanship and ideology. Of course, it would be misguided to seek an understanding of Trump’s success in the 2016 presidential election through any single lens. Yet, in a campaign that was marked by exceptionally explicit rhetoric on race and gender, it is perhaps unsurprising to find that voters’ attitudes on race and sex were so important in determining their vote choices.
The political scientists crunch a number of different data sets determining hostility toward women and non-whites by respondents to various polls. It turns out that expressing either sexist or racist prejudice was a much better indicator of likelihood of supporting Trump compared to economic dissatisfaction. Read the rest of the paper here.