It became conventional wisdom during the presidential campaign that Donald Trump supporters were motivated by bigotry, until the Republican candidate won and it became politically incorrect for Democrats to say that.
But the problem with that forgiving logic is, it’s just not really true, reported The Intercept.
“Whether it’s good politics to say so or not, the evidence from the 2016 election is very clear that attitudes about blacks, immigrants, and Muslims were a key component of Trump’s appeal,” Philip Klinkner, a political scientist at Hamilton College, told the website.
An entire genre of newspaper reports has profiled Trump supporters who regret their votes, now that programs they use are on the chopping block, or still back the president — but a common theme is their disdain for “illegal” immigrants and changing U.S. demographics.
“(Oklahoma widow) Betty Harris voted for Barack Obama when he first ran for president in 2008 because she liked his promise of change,” reported the Washington Post last week. “But he disappointed her in a number of ways, including, in her eyes, being too sympathetic to Muslims. She voted for Republican Mitt Romney in 2012 and Trump last year.”
“She likes the president’s promises to crack down on illegal immigration, which she thinks has hurt the job market, and to bully manufacturers into staying in the country,” the Post added.
Klinker examined a recent study published by American National Election Studies (ANES) and found attitudes toward race, ethnicity and religion — not economic anxiety — offered the best predictor of Trump support.
“Everywhere (divorced Texas school bus driver Tamara) Estes looks, she’s reminded that her country is changing,” the Post reported last month.
“White enrollment in Texas schools recently dipped below 30 percent,” the Post continued. “Hispanics are the new majority; Pew estimates that more than 13 percent of Texas students are the children of undocumented parents. Estes wants a better-paying job but says it’s hard to get one these days if you speak only English. Increasingly, the first question in any job interview is, ‘Habla español?'”
Another Oklahoma senior citizen, 70-year-old Judy Banks, told the New York Times she backed Trump because “he was talking about getting rid of those illegals” — but now she’s worried the president’s proposed budget cuts might cost her job through the Labor Department’s Senior Community Service Employment Program.
“If I lose this job, I’ll sit home and die,” Banks told the Times — yet she might still vote for Trump in 2020.
Klinker wasn’t surprised by the new data — which backed a previous ANES finding that showed white voters who believed Barack Obama was a Muslim were 89 percent more likely to back Trump over Clinton.
And he’s certainly not alone in his conclusion.
Progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and filmmaker Michael Moore have argued that income inequality — and not bigotry and xenophobia — fueled Trump’s rise, but many analysts aren’t buying that explanation.
“Income predicted support for (John) McCain and (Mitt) Romney, but not Trump,” wrote analysts Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel recently in The Nation.
Trump won the votes of a majority of non-college-educated whites, but he also won a majority of college-educated whites, and he drew the support of more young white voters than Clinton and a majority of white women.
In fact, white voters backed Trump regardless of their age, gender, income and education.
“Racial identity and attitudes have further displaced class as the central battleground of American politics,” McElwee and McDaniel wrote.