‘Cultural Anxiety’ Drove White Working-Class to Trump, Says Study Based on Pre-election Survey

‘Cultural Anxiety’ Drove White Working-Class to Trump, Says Study Based on Pre-election Survey
Sarasota, FL, USA - November 28, 2015: White seniors holding a placard supporting Donald Trump showing their support at his Presidential candidacy visit to Sarasota FL

Cultural anxiety was the main reason white working-class voters, primarily in rural areas, supported Donald Trump for president, says a study by Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic. The study, based on a survey from September and October, found that white working-class voters supported Trump based on fear of cultural displacement, their view that a college education lacks value, support for deporting illegal immigrants and because they identified with the Republican party.

“Sixty-eight percent of white working-class voters said the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence,” Emma Green reports for The Atlantic. While only 27 percent of white working-class voters said they favor a policy of identifying and deporting immigrants who are in the country illegally, 87 percent of them supported Trump during the election. Also, “54 percent of white working-class Americans said investing in college education is a risky gamble, including 61 percent of white working-class men.”

Survey respondents who reported being in fair or poor financial shape were actually 1.7 times more likely to support Hillary Clinton, compared to people in better financial shape.

“White working-class voters who say they often feel like a stranger in their own land and who believe the U.S. needs protecting against foreign influence were 3.5 times more likely to favor Trump than those who did not share these concerns,” the study found. “White working-class voters who favored deporting immigrants living in the country illegally were 3.3 times more likely to express a preference for Trump than those who did not.” Also, “white working-class voters who said that college education is a gamble were almost twice as likely to express a preference for Trump as those who said it was an important investment in the future.”

White working-class voters — people without college degrees or salaried jobs — make up one-third of American adults and more than half of all rural Americans, Green writes. The largest white working-class populations are in the Midwest, where Trump won handily. Overall, 64 percent of white working-class voters supported Trump, compared to 32 percent for Clinton.

This story was originally published by The Rural Blog — from the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based at the University of Kentucky.

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