Explaining the Trump Vote: The Effect of Racist Resentment and Anti-Immigrant Sentiments
by Marc Hooghe, University of Leuven and Ruth Dassonneville, Université de Montréal
Since taking office, President Trump has taken restrictive measures with regard to immigration to the US. An analysis of voter survey data shows that a negative attitude toward immigrants has in fact been one of the main reasons to vote for Trump during the 2016 elections. The results show that racist resentment (against ethnic minorities) and a negative attitude toward new immigrants are about equally powerful in explaining why a voter preferred Trump over Hillary Clinton. As such, Trump could tap into both a more traditional form of prejudice, as into a new, virulent rhetoric on the alleged dangers posed by immigrants. Despite all the “drain the swamp” rhetoric, the analysis shows that political distrust or dissatisfaction with democracy were not significant vote determinants. And despite various incidents during the campaign: controlling for these attitudes women were just as likely to vote for Trump as men. The analysis shows that Trump had a solid voter base, among Republicans, conservatives, and those with a hostile view toward immigration. The authors therefore speculate that the policy of the current president indeed caters to the prejudice of his voters.