Vote Switching in the 2016 Election: How Racial and Immigration Attitudes, Not Economics, Explain Shifts in White Voting

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Reny, Tyler, Loren Collingwood, and Ali Valenzuela. “Vote Switching in the 2016 Election: How Racial and Immigration Attitudes, Not Economics, Explain Shifts in White Voting”. Public Opinion Quarterly (2019). Web.

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In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral-college victory, journalists focused heavily on the White working class (WWC) and the relationship between economic anxiety, racial attitudes, immigration attitudes, and support for Trump. One hypothesized but untested proposition for Donald Trump’s success is that his unorthodox candidacy, particularly his rhetoric surrounding economic marginalization and immigration, shifted WWC voters who did not vote Republican in 2012 into his coalition. Using a large national survey, we examine: (1) whether racial and immigration attitudes or economic dislocation and marginality were the main correlates of vote switching; and (2) whether this phenomenon was isolated among the White working class. Findings indicate that a nontrivial number of White voters switched their votes in the 2016 election to Trump or Clinton, that this vote switching was more associated with racial and immigration attitudes than economic factors, and that the phenomenon occurred among both working-class and nonworking-class Whites, though many more working-class Whites switched than did nonworking-class Whites. Our findings suggest that racial and immigration attitudes may be continuing to sort White voters into new partisan camps and further polarize the parties.
Last updated on 07/09/2019