smhwpf: (Treebeard)
[personal profile] smhwpf
There are a lot of narratives about why Trump won. It's racism. (Almost certainly). It's misogyny (ditto). It's anger by the white working class at declining economy and lost manufacturing jobs. (Maybe). It's a desire to give a big up yours to the system (probably). It's a reaction to political correctness. (Sceptical).

Likewise, there are two major counter-narratives: that we need to understand, reach out to and empathize with Trump supporters; and that, no we don't, or at least we don't need to 'understand their concerns' as if they're poor victims, rather than people with deep racist instincts angry at the perceived dilution of their privilege.

I tend to agree with the latter, except I think we clearly do need to understand Trump supporters, what's driving people to vote for him, and why there were enough people choosing to vote for him in exactly the right states.

I've seen the exit polls, the breakdown by all sorts of demographic indicators, race, gender, age, income, education, etc. Also plenty of articles with data on predictors of Trump support: authoritarianism, implicit racial bias, etc., articles supporting and opposing the idea that economic decline is a factor.

But these all leave so many questions. One of the key ones is, what is the interplay between racism and economics? It seems pretty damned obvious that racism is a factor behind Trump support. But racism is not exogenous; what social circumstances tend to lead to higher levels of racism? Trump has galvanized and empowered racism that was already there, but what factors have led to this strategy gaining him votes in the particular places he needed them.

There is a lot missing from the exit poll data. Like, the breakdown by income shows Clinton getting majorities among people of lower income and Trump of higher income, going against the economic anger theory. But, given that people of colour have lower average incomes, does this pattern hold when restricted to white voters? We know white voters without college degrees voted for Trump much more strongly than those with, and of course college degrees correlate with higher income, but it does not thereby follow that low income among whites correlates with Trump support.

Then again, how does the income distribution of Trump support among whites compare with the income distribution of previous Republican support among whites? Traditionally, I think, lower income whites have been more likely to vote Democrat than high income. So the question is not just are they still more likely to vote Democrat, but, is the income correlation with voting among whites stronger or weaker than before? What has happened to the relative propensity of lower income whites to vote Dem compared to upper income, from previous elections to this one?

In particular, what is the source of the increase in relative Trump vote compared to McCain and Romney? The people who voted Obama but now voted Trump, who voted Obama but now stayed at home or voted 3rd party, the people who stayed at home but now Voted Trump?

Racism is clearly a huge factor behind Trump support. But racism was almost certainly correlated with support for previous Republican candidates. It has been at least since Nixon's Southern Strategy. Trump got the support of the great majority of (self-identified or registered) Republicans, Clinton got the support of the great majority of Democrats, so the fact that racism is correlated with Trump support doesn't tell us much about the relationship between relationship and Trump's gain in support (in relation to the Democrat opponent) compared to previous candidates. (In fact Trump got less votes in absolute terms, as I understand it, than Romney or McCain, but while Clinton beat Trump in popular vote by 0.2% so far, maybe 1-2% when all the votes are in, Obama beat McCain by over 7 and Romney by 3.9.)

Some of Trump's largest gains relative to Clinton in vote share, compared to the 2012 election, were in the Mid-West, certainly if one considers swing states. (Which includes virtually all the Mid-West). By contrast, the Clinton vote held up relatively well in Southern swing states or near swing states.

What I'm possibly getting at is that it could be true both that racism is the key predictor of Trump support, and that a key factor of Trump's victory—the people who switched to him, the people who stayed at home having previously voted for Obama, and so on—is anger at economic decline and a system that has failed the working class. (Not to say race isn't still a factor. But maybe, say, the more racist people turned out for Trump, while people who were put off by Trump's racism but angry at the system stayed at home instead of voting Clinton. Maybe).

I say this could be the case, but we need better, more granular, data.

None of this changes the fact that Trump's victory has enthused and empowered racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and much else, and that these forces need to be vigorously opposed, not empathized with. That is the priority. But we also need to understand what went wrong, and what strategies can reverse it; what, for example, is going to help the white working class people in rural, small town and suburban communities, who didn't vote for Trump, reach out to at least some of their neighbours who did and offer a better alternative? I think that is a much better question than the one that is often asked, how can 'we' (implicitly right-thinking but guilt-ridden middle-class educated urban liberals) 'reach out' to 'Trump supporters' in the abstract.

Date: 2016-11-11 07:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well done. We need people like you who can analyse the situation - and explain things clearly.

Date: 2016-11-11 11:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes. Even in these days of post-truth politics, facts HAVE to be the starting point. Somehow.

It's already becoming a "truth" that Trump won because of the disenfranchised poor Real People who rebelled against the Politically Correct Elite. (Which this article picks apart nicely.) And in Europe, this is already being used against the Politically Correct Elite, ie immigrants, women, LGBT folk and minorities, by the Real People, ie conservative and fascist politicians and their army of twitter eggs with nothing better to do all day than swarm. Never mind that the facts don't back it up; that's the narrative both Trump and Le Pen and UKIP and SD and everyone has been spinning, and journalists and politicians are eating it up because, well, that's the story they know how to sell.

People are talking about the need to support the independent press, which, sure. But it's not like journalists are immune to this in a time where the important thing is hunting clicks. Look at the reaction in the British tabloid press to the Brexit thing the other week. Sweden's fourth largest daily paper, Göteborgs-Posten, has basically gone full SD over the last few months, and even the ones who nominally resist it still have to play on that playing field. And I don't even want to think of how the media spin is looking in most Eastern European countries...

The press have to report facts. They have to ask follow-up questions. Sadly, many of them are instead focusing on reporting opinions and Letting Both Sides Speak. And it's not like we haven't seen enough examples of how well that works.
Edited Date: 2016-11-11 12:14 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-11-15 01:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ha, yeah, and since when are minorities and LGBT people the elite? And as someone else on LJ has been pointing out, since when was it only white working class men that have been suffering from the way the economy has been going?

That is horrifying that a major regional paper has gone SD.

Date: 2016-11-12 11:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's not all racism. Same with Brexit. The problem is that under-educated voters think life is a zero-sum game. If someone else is getting richer, or getting advantages that they didn't have before - or even getting closer to equal treatment than they were before - then they think it must come at a cost to other groups, i.e. the people who are not getting visibly helped by the current system. And that's why they lash out against it.

Unfortunately, explaining why this is a fallacy to people who haven't finished high school is really bloody difficult. So some people exploit the ignorance instead.

Racism is a big factor. But ignorance more so. See the breakdown of voting here:
The group that broke most for Trump (67-28)? Whites without a college degree (i.e. high school or less). I didn't look that up before writing the above.

Date: 2016-11-15 01:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I dunno, that is probably generalizing rather about under-educated voters. Some no doubt are more open to that fallacy.

But most of these white working class people are not actually seeing minority neighbours getting better off as they stagnate, an awful lot of them live in overwhelmingly white areas.

I suspect that the key impact of education on racism is not necessarily the knowledge and critical thinking imparted, or prior characteristics, as that college mixes people up and exposes them to people from different places and cultures; and for white people in rural or suburban areas, to far more people of colour than they've previously met. Plus the general cauldron of ideas swirling around, much of it from the student body.

Clearly it doesn't guarantee anything, the figures for whites with college degrees were better but still a Trump majority, but it makes some difference.

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