Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Trump’s Biggest Aasset is Racism

Racial Resentment - Click image to enlarge

For many years dating back to Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy," the Republican Party leadership has utilized and certainly condoned dog whistle racism and bigotry to rally working class whites to support the party even though its economic policies have worsened the plight of poorly educated working class voters.  When appeals to racism failed to seal the deal, right wing Christian extremism was similarly nurtured and welcomed by the party elites.  Today, the result is an out of control and extremely ugly party base.  Now, as a piece in Salon reveals, a survey by the American National Election Studies 2016 Pilot Study, a presidential primary extension of a long-running election survey, confirms that racism is the driving force behind Donald Trump.  Here are article highlights:

What explains the rise of Donald Trump?

There are many potential answers, but over the course of the campaign two competing theories have emerged. The first holds that Trump’s message appeals to working-class white voters who’ve seen their incomes stagnate, manufacturing jobs vanish, and inequality skyrocket in recent decades. The root cause of Trumpism, in this view, is economic insecurity. The other, blunter theory is that Trump’s fans flock to him for the same reason elites view him as an existential threat to American democracy: His open appeals to racist, white nationalist sentiment.

Both of these theories have some truth to them. But polling data suggests that racial resentment is the more important factor.

The poll had a number of questions designed to measure racial animus.

First, it asked respondents how important their race is to their identity. Second, it asked respondents whether they think the words “lazy” and “violent” describe black people, Muslims and Hispanics, “extremely well,” “very well,” “moderately well,” “slightly well” and “not well at all.” Finally, it included several questions meant to measure what scholars refer to as “racial resentment.”

On just about every measure, support for Trump increased along with the measured racial animus. As the chart below shows, increased levels of racial stereotyping among white respondents — as measured by belief that black people, Muslims and Hispanics are “lazy” or “violent” — strongly increases support for Trump, even after controlling for other factors. The opposite is true, however, when it comes to support for Marco Rubio. Among white respondents, support for Rubio decreases with belief in racial stereotypes. . . . .  Trump support increases significantly among those who describe Muslims as “violent,” while the same does not hold for the other Republican candidates.

Worryingly for the GOP elite, our analysis also suggests one reason stopping Trump has proved so difficult: His support is highest among those who do not follow politics very closely. Support for Trump in January was strongest among those who said they followed politics “hardly at all,” while Kasich and Rubio performed best with those who follow politics more frequently. This means they may have missed, or simply don’t care about, many of the events (like the recent Chicago protests) that have pushed many away from Trump.

Dating back to Ronald Reagan’s demonization of “welfare queens,” the GOP has used racially charged rhetoric to undermine support for the social safety net. The result has been over time to empower a demagogue like Donald Trump. A recent New York Times investigation showed that one of the most powerful predictors that a county would vote Trump was its share of citizens living in mobile homes. In the same investigation, the strongest overall predictor of support for Trump was not employment rate, but rather the share of population who were non-Hispanic whites without college degrees.

[W]e find that racism is the main driver of support for Trump. The model presented here accounts for all of these attitudes and still finds an incredibly strong relationship between racism and support for Trump. The centrality of racism to the Trump phenomenon should not be obscured.

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