Most Democrats have speculated and wondered about how the GOP is appealing to the racist beliefs of their voters. New research confirms an appeal to whiteness as central to their message. (More)
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Minnpost’s Eric Black has a column up titled, “On Trump and his support among voters with a heightened sense of white identity.” If you had even a whisper of doubt that Trump played to his base and their endangered sense of whiteness, this is jaw dropping.
Past efforts to measure this have suggested that white Americans do not view their whiteness as that big an element of their identity, but a group of political scientists wondered whether the shrinking share of whites in the population and the recent experience of having the first nonwhite president might have changed that. Apparently so.
Perhaps the findings won’t surprise you, but the degree of the correlation between a heightened white identity and support for Donald Trump struck me as impressive (bordering on jaw-dropping).
Of those white Republicans whose answers suggested that their identity, in their own minds, has little to do with their race, only 2 percent were Trump supporters. But among those whose answers indicated that their race was highly central to their view of themselves, 81 percent favored Trump for the Republican nomination (and, presumably, for president).
In addition to those two extremes, looking at those whose answers suggested that their identity focused more or less on being white, there is an almost perfect slope from 2 percent to 81 percent. If I’m reading this correctly, this whiteness quotient captured, almost perfectly, the likelihood that a white Republican favored Trump.
Thomas Edsall’s New York Times column delves deeper into the subject of whiteness. This quote from Ashley Jardina sums it up:
When the dominant status of whites relative to racial and ethnic minorities is secure and unchallenged, white identity likely remains dormant. When whites perceive their group’s dominant status is threatened or their group is unfairly disadvantaged, however, their racial identity may become salient and politically relevant.
To summarize this, most of the whites referenced here don’t self-identify as white supremacists or white nationalists. But they’re white people who feel threatened by their loss of status.
To explore the role of white voters for whom racial identity was especially important, three political scientists — John Sides, Michael Tesler and Lynn Vavreck — analyze the ANES data in their forthcoming book, “Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America.”
The survey, they write, asked four questions that captured dimensions of white identity: the importance of white identity, how much whites are being discriminated against, the likelihood that whites are losing jobs to nonwhites, and the importance of whites working together to change laws unfair to whites. We combined those questions into a scale capturing the strength of white identity and found that it was strongly related to Republicans’ support for Donald Trump.
The more important a person’s sense of white identity was to them, the more likely they were to vote for Trump. I, speaking just for myself, am unwilling to abandon a Democratic platform of justice and equality for all to try and court of group of disaffected whites who think the Trump was the answer to their status concerns.
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