Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election has understandably sparked considerable debate among political analysts regarding the reason that Trump won. In this paper, we present analyses of data from the American National Election Study (ANES) to show that Trump’s victory was most significantly affected by his ability to tap into what we call “outgroup hostility” among whites. We review how the study of outgroup hostility is reflective of the changing role of race in electoral politics in the contemporary era of globalization. Racial resentment is both broadened and diluted in the electorate today, no longer focused strictly on African Americans, but in our measure includes hostility toward Latino immigrants and Muslims as well. Outgroup hostility as we measure it is a potent new form of white ethnocentrism. We find that white attitudes toward outgroups have become more polarized, with some whites becoming less hostile toward outgroups and others more. Our measure outgroup hostility best predicts support for Trump in the 2016 election. It proved to be the most important predictor in mobilizing voters to vote for Trump in 2016. Outgroup hostility was a more important predictor than economic anxiety, gender bias or other possible influences. Its effect was strongest in swing states, notably among disaffected voters who did not vote in 2012.
This paper (PDF) was presented to the American Politics Workshop, PhD/MA Political Science Program, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, April 12, 2018. It is from research for the forthoming book, Hard White: Trump and the Alt-Right (by Richard C. Fording and Sanford F. Schram).
Sanford Schram is Professor of Political Science Department at Hunter College, CUNY and a faculty member of the Sociology Department at the CUNY Graduate Center where he teaches in the doctoral program in Political Science.
Richard Fording is the Marilyn Williams Elmore and John Durr Elmore Endowed Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alabama