Nav: Home

Attitudes toward race, immigration underscored vote switching in 2016 election

July 25, 2019

Nearly three years later, it's rare to read a postmortem of the 2016 presidential election that doesn't include at least a passing mention of one of the electorate's more elusive unicorns: the Obama-to-Trump voter.

It's estimated that around 9% of voters who supported Barack Obama in 2012 crossed party lines to endorse Donald Trump in 2016 -- but why? According to a team of researchers that included Loren Collingwood, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside, the reasons behind so-called "vote switching" might be more complicated than originally expected.

Along with UCLA's Tyler Reny and Princeton University's Ali Valenzuela, Collingwood examined a set of untested hypotheses proposed as explanations for Trump's success in recruiting previous supporters of Obama, in particular.

The researchers first focused their analysis on whether a sizable number of white voters had switched from Obama to Trump in 2016, and if those same voters mainly identified as working class. They also evaluated whether concerns related to race and immigration or economic anxiety were more likely to be associated with vote switching in 2016.

They found that among white voters, a nontrivial number of those who identified as working class, as well as a nontrivial amount of those who didn't, switched their votes in 2016. Moreover, among both classes of white voters, switching was more likely to be associated with attitudes toward race and immigration than economic factors. Their findings were published in the journal Public Opinion Quarterly.

"This paper is the first to thoroughly examine the correlates of vote switching in the 2016 election," Collingwood's team wrote. "Our findings suggest that the United States may be in the midst of further electoral realignment as partisan voting continues to polarize around issues of race and immigration."

The researchers suggested that over the past decade, a handful of elements -- including rapid Latino population growth and the two-term presidency of the nation's first black president -- further contributed to partisan polarization around issues of race and immigration.

Likewise, as the Republican Party became known as the party of wealthy elites, the Democratic Party grew increasingly reliant on minority voters. Those factors, coupled with the collapse of American manufacturing, left white, working-class voters feeling alienated from both parties -- and essentially created a void for a candidate like Trump to fill.

To learn more about those voters, the researchers reviewed data from a survey sample of more than 64,000 people representative of the U.S. adult population.

They discovered that although most of the respondents included remained loyal to the same party in 2012 and 2016, about 6% of white working-class voters and 2.4% of white non-working-class voters switched to Trump in 2016. In contrast, only 2% of white working-class voters and 3.1% of white non-working-class voters switched from supporting Mitt Romney in 2012 to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

"Given that there were over 50.5 million white non-working-class voters and over 46.4 million working-class white voters in 2016, these percentages are not trivial and suggest that, in raw numbers, many more working-class whites than non-working-class whites switched their votes in 2016 from Obama to Trump and far fewer from Romney to Clinton," the researchers wrote.

From there, the team sought to better understand the rationale behind the switches. They weighed voters' responses to two batteries of questions: one related to acknowledgement of race and racism, and another that gauged support for a range of immigration policy proposals.

The researchers then compared voters' levels of "economic marginality" by measuring self-reported family income relative to each respondent's surrounding economic environment.

Their results illuminated some of vote switching's more ambiguous aspects. First, they observed that pronounced attitudes toward race and immigration were defining attributes of voters who switched in either direction. Moreover, both working-class and non-working-class whites were more likely to switch to Trump if they demonstrated strong racially conservative or punitive immigration views, regardless of economic status.

"White voters who held punitive immigration or racially conservative views were more likely to switch to Trump in the 2016 election than those with pro-immigration or racially liberal views, who were more likely to switch to Clinton," the researchers wrote.

"While more working-class whites switched to Trump and more non-working-class whites to Clinton, the associations between their symbolic racial and immigration attitudes and vote switching were not substantively different," they added. "We find little evidence that economic dislocation and marginality were significantly related to vote switching in 2016."

The researchers noted that while their findings might tell a different story than established media narratives, such results could be indicative of an era of partisan realignment. White voters, including vote switchers, may be sorting into new parties primarily based on their stances toward issues of race and immigration. And, as communities continue to diversify, it's possible both parties will become even more polarized around such issues.
-end-


University of California - Riverside

Related Immigration Articles:

Awareness of controversial Arizona immigration law influenced male students' classroom behavior
US-born Latino male middle school students who had familiarity with a controversial Arizona immigration-enforcement bill had more difficulty exhibiting proper behavior in the classroom, such as following instructions and staying quiet, according to a new study by researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Kansas.
Age at immigration influences occupational skill development
Future occupations of US immigrant children are influenced by how similar their native language is to English, according to a new study from scholars at Duke University and the US Naval Postgraduate School.
Despite changes, revised immigration executive order will cause health care crises
President Trump's revised executive order on immigration clarifies that those from the 6 designated countries with existing visas, including physicians and medical students, will be able to enter and reenter the US as recommended by ACP.
Four decades of evidence finds no link between immigration and increased crime
Political discussions about immigrants often include the claim that there is a relationship between immigration patterns and increased crime.
Immigration raids are linked to low birth weights among Latina mothers
Some types of Immigration policy and enforcement can negatively affect the well-being of Latino immigrants, but few studies have examined the repercussions to the health of Latino newborns.
Survey on Americans' priorities finds health care, unemployment, immigration, education top list
Health care, unemployment, immigration, and education top a lengthy and varied list of the American public's policy priorities for 2017, according to a new national survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Immigration fears among Latinos can impact baby size at birth
With deportation and discrimination fears currently on the minds of many in the United States, a University of Michigan study shows that the stress from an historic immigration raid is associated with Latina mothers delivering babies with lower birth weights, and sometimes early.
9/11 merged US immigration and terrorism efforts at Latinos' expense, study finds
After Sept. 11, issues of immigration and terrorism merged, heightening surveillance and racializing Latino immigrants as a threat to national security, according to sociologists at The University of Texas at Austin.
Blame austerity not immigration for the inequality underlying Brexit, argues expert
The underlying reason for worsening health and declining living standards in Britain is not immigration but ever growing economic inequality and the public spending cuts that have accompanied austerity, argues an expert in The BMJ today.
Europe: Don't adopt Australian style immigration system, warn ethicists
European countries should not adopt Australia's immigration system, with its emphasis on deterrence, warn ethicists in a special issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics, dedicated to global medical ethics.

Related Immigration Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...