Opinion | The Unsettling Truth About Trump’s First Great Victory

The authors combined these questions into a “scale that assesses the strength of white identity and found that it is closely related to Republican support for Donald Trump.”

“Strictly related” is an understatement. On a 17-point scale that ranks the strength of white identity among Republican primary voters from lowest to highest, support for Trump rose steadily at each step – from 2% at the bottom to 81% at the highest level.

Now, despite this previous fellowship, three political scientists are presenting a different interpretation of the 2016 election, in their February 28 paper ““Measuring the contribution of voting blocks to election resultses, Justin Grimmer by Stanford, William’s Marble of the University of Pennsylvania and Cole Tanigawa-Laualso from Stanford, writes:

We evaluate claims that Donald Trump has received a particularly large number of votes from individuals with anti-ethnic attitudes toward groups outside of race (Sides, Tesler and Vavreck, 2017; Mason, Wronski). and Kane, 2021). Using the ANES, however, we show that in 2016, Trump received the most support, compared to Mitt Romney in 2012, from whites with a degree of racial discontent. medium. This result holds true despite the fact that the relationship between vote choice and racial outrage was stronger in 2016 and 2020 than in other elections.

How can both of these seemingly contradictory statements be true? Grimmer, Marble and Tanigawa-Lau write:

Breaking down the change in support observed in the ANES data, we show that respondents in 2016 and 2020 reported more dovish views, on average, compared with the polls. previous election. As a result, Trump improved the most over previous Republicans by winning the votes of a larger number of those who reported racially moderate views.

In an email, Marble provided more details:

Whites with high levels of racial resentment have supported Trump by a historically high percentage compared to previous Republican presidential candidates. However, between 2012 and 2016, the number of people who scored high on the racial resentment scale decreased significantly. As a result, there are simply fewer voters with high racial resentment over Trump’s victory in 2016 and 2020 than in previous periods. At the same time, the number of people who scored moderately on racial outrage increased. Trump is unpopular in this voting bloc, compared to those with high racial resentment. But because the group is larger, whites with moderate racial discontent ended up contributing more net votes to Trump.

I asked Grimmer to explain the importance of his work with Marble and Tanigawa-Lau.

Responding via email, Grimmer wrote:

Our findings provide an important correction to the popular narrative of how Trump was elected. Hillary Clinton argues that Trump supporters could be classified as a “basket of people to blame”. And election night pundits and even some pundits have claimed that Trump’s victory was the result of calling out racist and xenophobic attitudes among white Americans. We show that this conventional wisdom is (at best) incomplete. Trump supporters are less xenophobic than previous Republican candidates, less sexist, less hateful towards minorities, and lower levels of racial resentment. Far from blameworthy, Trump voters are on average more tolerant and understanding than voters for previous Republican candidates.

Data, Grimmer continued,

points out two important and undeniable truths. First, analyzes that focus solely on vote selection cannot tell us where candidates get support. We have to know the size of the groups and who will vote. And we cannot confuse a candidate’s rhetoric with those of voters supporting them, because voters can support a candidate despite the rhetoric, not because of it.

I asked Sides, Tesler, and Vavreck for their assessment of the Grimmer, Marble, and Tanigawa-Lau paper. They gave a one-paragraph answer affirming, in the phrase “issues of identity,” the important role racial resentment plays:

Of course, there are complications in describing changes in overall election results over time. Several studies on the 2016 election, including our book, The Identity Crisis, and this interesting article by Grimmer, Marble and Tanigawa-Lau, found that everyone’s voting options People in that election were more closely related to their views on “identity-complex issues” than in previous elections. That’s why our book argues that these issues are central to how we interpret the 2016 results.

John Kane, a political scientist at NYU and co-author with Lilliana Mason and Julie Wronski of “Activate Animus: The only social source of support for Trump,” is quoted in the Grimmer article, suggesting that the Grimmer article did in fact provide an important correction to the 2016 election debate. an email, Kane pointed to an important part that read:

Trump’s surprising victory in 2016 was not attributed to a massive increase in Republican votes among the most racially outraged Americans. Instead, support for Trump increased the most, compared with previous Republican candidates, among whites with relatively moderate racial discontent scores. This potentially surprising finding is explained by a shift in the distribution of racial resentment among the population.

Grimmer’s score, Kane wrote, was

to highlight the fact that, if we don’t take into account the population size of a group (e.g. how many people are racially disgruntled) and how many of them actually vote, we We can falsely infer that certain groups have become more or less supportive of particular parties over time. I totally agree with this point and really think it’s super important for people to understand.

That said, Kane continued,

The view that the average Trump electorate is less racially outraged than the electorate of previous Republican candidates, while possibly true, should, I think, be construed as a statement about This is why it is important to be aware of changes over time in electoral group sizes. population, and NOT a claim about Trump’s success in attracting racially liberal voters (indeed, those with the lowest racial resentment turned against him, as discovered by Grimmer-Marble-Tanigawa-Lau himself).

Other scholars, who have explored issues of race and politics, generally support Grimmer’s paper.

Andrew Engelhardta political scientist at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, wrote via email:

I find this argument convincing because to understand election results requires not only understanding what contributes to voting choice (e.g. racial group attachments, racial prejudice), but also how many people with that particular attitude voted and the turnout of that group offset.

Grimmer’s article, Engelhardt continued, “encours us to take a step back and focus on the big picture to understand elections: where do most votes come from, and how consistent are these patterns across countries?” election?” Along these lines, according to Engelhardt,

Discussing racial outrage fueling support for Trump may miss out on how important people with little racial resentment really are to election results. The article makes this clear point, noting, for example, that white Democrats with less racial resentment were even more influential in contributing to Clinton’s votes in 2016 than they were in voting for Clinton. with Obama in 2012. Change between 2012 and 2016 is not only due to the behavior of the most prejudiced.

“I love this piece,” Alexander George Theodoridis, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, writes. “It’s a nice reminder to academics and especially the media that it’s important to think carefully about prime rates.”

In his email, Theodoridis argued:

Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2016 was a stress test for Republican co-operation, and Republican co-operation was passed with brilliant color. The election was close enough for Trump to win because the vast majority of GOP voters found the idea of ​​sitting out or voting for a Democrat they had spent more than 20 years disliked so annoying that the limits Trump’s regime, liability, and overt racism and discrimination are no more. a deal breaker.

Theodoridis notes that one of the

A minor criticism of methods and measurements is that this type of analysis must seriously consider the true meaning of the racial resentment scale. Maybe that race is actually quite prominent for those in the middle of the scale, but they’re just less openly racist than those at the top of the scale. In addition, the meaning of the racial resentment scale changes over time in ways that are not independent of politics, and especially the politics of the president. The position on the scale is not invariant in the way that some descriptive characteristics might be.

Sean Westwood, a political scientist at Dartmouth, explicitly advocated the Grimmer-Marble-Tanigawa-Lau method. Writing by email, Westwood argued:

Predicting who will win votes in a particular group is an interesting academic exercise, but more fundamental to elections is understanding how many voters will be won by candidates from each group. . The drawback to Sides-Vavreck-Mason-Jardina is that they found a strong relationship between racist attitudes and Trump support, but while predicting individual voting choices, the results This result resulted in a relatively small total of votes for Trump.

Westwood thinks

Grimmer et al.’s important contribution was that there was a major shift in the attitudes of white voters. A small number of whites with high levels of racial resentment supported Trump in 2016 by a higher margin than in previous elections, but the majority of support for Trump came from blacks. white is more peaceful. Trump tried to garner support from racists, but he was able to garner more support from economically disadvantaged whites.

Grimmer’s article, according to Westwood, has important implications for those who make “general statements about the Republican Party going forward,” especially challenging those who believe that

that Republicans can continue to win by appealing to the worst attitudes and instincts of white Americans. While it is true that Trump’s support is greatest among the most racist voters, this group is a shrinking segment of the electorate. Republicans, as Grimmer et al. shows, must find a way to attract white moderates, who have more moderate attitudes in order to win. Racism appeals may win votes, but it is important to remember that this number is smaller than the number of votes obtained by speaking out about the economic concerns of moderate white voters ( many of them are uncomfortable with Trump’s racist rhetoric and vote solely on economic policy).

Trump, Westwood concluded, “has support from both racists and moderates, but with a shrinking racist constituency, this is clearly not the path to victory.” Future.”


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