Status Threat, Material Interests, and the 2016 Presidential Vote

A first wave of sociological research on the 2016 presidential election has now been published, and a prominent theme of this research is the appeal of Trump’s campaign to white, working-class voters. Analyses of Obama-to-Trump voters, along with the spatial distribution of votes cast, are both consistent with the claim that white, working-class voters represented the crucial block of supporters who delivered the electoral college victory to Trump (McQuarrie 2017; Morgan and Lee 2017, 2018). To attract their support, Trump appealed directly to the economic interests of working-class voters, praising the dignity of their work and arguing that their past labor had given the country its mid–twentieth century prosperity (Lamont, Park, and Ayala Hurtado 2017). He relied on folk beliefs about how the U.S. economy can be managed in order to argue that renegotiated trade agreements and restrictions on immigration would improve working-class economic standing (Swedberg 2018). These appeals echoed populist arguments of past insurgent Republican candidates, most notably Pat Buchanan, who also challenged the expansion of free-trade agreements that were promoted by mainstream Republicans, the business community, and centrist Democrats (McCall and Orloff 2017).

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