After working-class white voters turned out in droves to propel President Donald Trump to his surprise win over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, many have postulated that fears about the economy propelled this demographic to show up at the polls and cast their ballots for the billionaire businessman-turned outsider Republican politician.
However, a new breakdown of exit polls and other surveys came to a different conclusion: above all other anxieties, fears of cultural changes within the U.S. led these voters to support Trump.
Indeed, white working-class voters who were most worried about their financial situation were more almost twice as likely to select the Democratic nominee rather than the Republican on their ballots, according to data from Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic.
College-educated white voters supported Trump by a 4 percent margin, but it was the working-class white demographic that secured his decisive victory — 64 percent voted for the Republican, while only 32 percent selected Clinton, giving Trump the highest margin of victory among this demographic than any presidential candidate since 1980.
This group largely voted along party lines, but beyond that, there were three factors in particular that the vast number of Trump voters in this demographic agreed with.
While only 27 percent of the demographic said that they supported finding and deporting undocumented immigrants, a full 87 percent of those with that sentiment cast ballots for the GOP nominee.
Nearly 80 percent of working-class white voters who had cultural fears — for example, those who agreed with the sentiment that “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country” or who believe that the American way of life needs to be shielded from foreign influence — selected Trump.
Those who said it was a huge risk to invest in education — 54 percent agreed with this — were nearly two times more likely to support Trump than others.
“The enduring narrative of the American dream is that if you study and get a college education and work hard, you can get ahead,” said Robert P. Jones, the CEO of PRRI, according to The Atlantic. “The survey shows that many white working-class Americans, especially men, no longer see that path available to them. … It is this sense of economic fatalism, more than just economic hardship, that was the decisive factor in support for Trump among white working-class voters.”
The white working class, whom the same poll found generally fear that the U.S. is losing its identity and believe that whites face as much discrimination as minorities, was one of the leading voices that selected Trump, due to their high turnout. In general, approximately 2.4 percent more whites showed up to the polls in 2016 than they did in 2012, notes The Washington Post. Asians and Hispanics also had a higher turnout, while nearly 5 percent fewer African-Americans cast their ballots on Nov. 8, 2016.
Sources: The Atlantic, The Washington Post / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons