Vote Switching in the 2016 Election: Racial and Immigration Attitudes, Not Economics, Explains Shifts in White Voting (with Loren Collingwood and Ali Valenzuela) Forthcoming at Public Opinion Quarterly
In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral college victory, journalists focused heavily on the white working class (WWC) and the relationship between economic anxiety, racial attitudes, and immigration attitudes and support for Trump. One hypothesized but untested proposition for Donald Trump’s success is that his unorthodox candidacy, particularly his rhetoric surrounding economic marginalization and immigration, shifted WWC voters who did not vote Republican in 2012 into his coalition. Using a large nationally representative survey we examine 1) whether racial and immigration attitudes or economic dislocation and marginality were the main catalysts for vote switching, and; 2) whether this phenomena was isolated among the white working class. We find a non-trivial number of white voters switched their votes in the 2016 election to Trump or Clinton, that this vote switching was associated much more strongly with racial and immigration attitudes than economic factors, and that the phenomena occurred among both working class and non-working class whites, though many more working class whites switched than non-working class whites. Our findings suggest that racial and immigration attitudes may be continuing to sort white voters into new partisan camps and further polarize the parties along racial lines. [PDF] [Replication]
Protecting the Right to Discriminate: The Second Great Migration and Racial Threat in the American West (with Ben Newman) American Political Science Review
Taking advantage of a unique event in American history, the Second Great Migration, we explore whether the rapid entry of blacks into nearly exclusively white contexts triggered “racial threat” in white voting behavior in the state of California. Utilizing historical administrative data, we find that increasing proximity to previously white areas experiencing drastic black population growth between 1940 to 1960 is associated with significant increases in aggregate white voter support for a highly racially-charged ballot measure, Proposition 14, which legally protected racial discrimination in housing. Importantly, we find that this result holds when restricting the analysis to all-white areas with high rates of residential tenure and low rates of white population growth. These latter findings indicate that this relationship materializes in contexts where a larger share of white voters (a) were present during the treatment and (b) exercised residential-choice before the treatment commenced, which is suggestive of a causal effect. [PDF] [Online Appendix] [Replication]
Roots of the Radical Right: Nostalgic Deprivation in the United States and Britain (with Justin Gest and Jeremy Mayer) Comparative Political Studies
Following trends in Europe over the past decade, support for the Radical Right has recently grown more significant in the United States and the United Kingdom. While the United Kingdom has witnessed the rise of Radical Right fringe groups, the United States’s political spectrum has been altered by the Tea Party and the election of Donald Trump. This paper asks what predicts white individuals’ support for such groups. In original, representative surveys of white individuals in Britain and the United States, we use an innovative technique to measure subjective social, political, and economic status that captures individuals’ perceptions of increasing or decreasing deprivation over time. We then analyze the impact of these deprivation measures on support for the Radical Right among Republicans (Conservatives), Democrats (Labourites), and Independents. We show that nostalgic deprivation among white respondents drives support for the Radical Right in the United Kingdom and the United States. [PDF] [Replication]
Demographic Change, Latino Countermobilization, and the Politics of Immigration in U.S. Senate Campaigns Political Research Quarterly
Demographic changes from decades of mass immigration and shifts in internal migration patterns are upending the traditional racial composition of many states throughout the United States, transforming the American electorate, and increasing both the political salience of immigration and the racial salience of Latinos. Politicizing these visible demographic shifts has become an increasingly common strategy by both Democrats and Republicans with potentially significant electoral effects. While many have examined the impact of these demographic changes on dominant receiving populations’ attitudes, few have examined how changing demographics are shaping immigration politics in electoral campaigns. Specifically, under what conditions do political candidates politicize demographic change? I hypothesize that both political and demographic considerations drive variation in immigration appeals. I test my hypotheses using candidate campaign websites from 2010, 2012, and 2014 U.S. Senate primary and general elections. I argue that racial party cleavages increase the electoral temptation of immigration appeals but it is the interaction between Latino population growth, electoral competition, and Latino voters that determines campaign strategy more broadly and moderates the use of pro- and anti-immigrant appeals [PDF] [Replication]
Immigrant Political Ambition: New Americans and the Quest for Political Office (with Paru Shah) Social Sciences Quarterly
Objective: Record numbers of first- and second-generation immigrants have won elected office over the last few electoral cycles, yet we find immigrants are still underrepresented at all levels of government. What are the perceived barriers to entry into political life among these New Americans?
Method: Using a unique survey dataset that includes an oversample of first- and second-generation immigrants who have enrolled in civic leadership trainings, we examine the similarities and differences between immigrant and non-immigrant leaders.
Results: We find that immigrants are in many ways similar to their non-immigrant counterparts in that access to structural resources help shape their political ambition. Yet immigrants, unlike their non-immigrant counterparts, often have less of these resources and perceive their ability to capitalize on these resources as less feasible.
Conclusions: We find that the traditional barriers to office—lack of professional and political experiences, finances, and monied networks—all contribute to lower self-perceived qualifications for office among both immigrants and non-immigrants. Yet the New American leaders who are highly politically involved, deeply rooted in their communities, and well-positioned to run for office, face the additional psychological barriers posed by their race and ethnicity, immigrant identity, citizenship status, language ability, and acculturation, barriers that are often offered in open-ended essays as self-evident and crippling. Leadership training programs play a crucial role in providing training and instilling confidence in would-be immigrant candidates. [PDF] [Press]
Survey Methodology and the Latina/o Vote: Why a Bilingual, Bicultural, Latino-centered Approach Matters (with Matt Barreto and Bryan Wilcox-Archuleta) Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies
In this article, we briefly summarize the academic literature on Latino political behavior, explain why understanding the attitudes of subgroups requires pollsters sensitive to the populations they study, and present a novel analysis of real vote data that suggests that Clinton did, as expected, surpass Obama’s margin of victory among Latino voters. Analyzing 29,045,522 votes from 39,118 electoral precincts across 10 states, we show that Latino Decisions polling was far closer to the actual vote returns than the Edison Exit Poll. We conclude by looking to the future of the Latino electorate and polling in U.S. elections. [PDF]
“The Negative Effects of Mass Media Stereotypes of Latinos and Immigrants” In Media and Minorities: Questions on Representation from an International Perspective. Eds Georg Ruhrmann, Yasemin Shooman, and Peter Widmann. Jewish Museum of Berlin Press
In this chapter, we leverage data from a national survey and an interactive online experiment to answer two key questions. First, which stereotypes about Latinos and immigrants do Americans hold? Second, does exposure to these stereotypes from popular media sources reinforce or attenuate them? We find convincing evidence that non-Latinos attribute both negative and positive stereotypes to Latinos and immigrants, that these stereotypes are not moderated by interpersonal contact with Latinos or immigrants, and that news and entertainment media can shape public opinion about Latinos and immigrants in a variety of ways [PDF]
El peso del voto Latino en 2016 (with Sergio I. Garcia-Rios, Angela X. Ocampo, and Bryan Wilcox-Archuleta) Foreign Affairs Latinoamerica Volumen 17, Numero 1.
In this article we use precinct level election and demographic data to estimate Latino 2016 presidential general election votes in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas. We find that Trump won an estimated 16% of the Latino vote, a historic low and well below Exit Poll estimates. [PDF]
Hands Off My Obamacare: Self-Interest and Symbolic Attitudes in The Health Care Debate (with David O. Sears)
Social scientists have long shown that self-interest rarely has a large effect on citizens’ sociopolitical attitudes. Instead, Americans’ opinions about public policy are driven more by symbolic predispositions. Yet, those opinions about policy may just be cheap talk. When Americans’ are faced with costly behaviors that pit their interests against their values, perhaps self-interest will play a larger role. Post-Obamacare health insurance coverage provides an important test for self-interest and symbolic politics. Faced with costly decisions to pay fines or purchase insurance, did Americans put symbolic politics over material self-interests? We first show that symbolic attitudes overwhelm self-interest in shaping public opinion about health policy. Marshaling data from over one million respondents from Gallup’s Tracking Poll, however, we show that both self-interest and symbolic predispositions play important roles in decisions to purchase health insurance under the ACA.
No, You’re Playing the Race Card: Anti-Black and Anti-Latino Appeals in The Post-Obama Era (with Loren Collingwood and Ali Valenzuela) revise and resubmit at Political Psychology
Despite the sizable literature on racial priming in political campaigns, scholars have failed to account for the shifting reality of race in politics. First, theories of racial priming have not yet been applied to increasingly common anti-Latino political appeals. Second, theories of racial priming have failed to take into account the increasing salience of race and the increased tolerance of explicit racial appeals among white Americans, both of which violate central axioms of the Implicit-Explicit (IE) model of racial appeals. Across four survey experiments, we find consistent evidence that the IE model only weakly holds for black and Latino racial appeals. In our “most-racial” era, we find that white respondents are more likely to recognize the racial content in racially coded black and Latino appeals but also tolerate it at higher levels than previously seen.
How In-Group Elite Rhetoric Shapes Mass Immigration Attitudes (with Justin Gest)
What role do elites play in shaping attitudes on immigration? Existing literature suggests that most policy attitudes are heavily influences by elites. It is less clear the power of elite rhetoric for issues that are highly contentious and rooted in group-based antagonisms. Drawing from resesarch on persuasion, we design and field a well-powered large survey experiment with white Republicans (n=10,000) to test the power of counter-stereotypical pro-immigration messages from trusted in-group elites to move respondents’ attitudes and behavior regarding immigrants and immigration. In doing so, we explore the characteristics of both elites and respondents that facilitate attitude change.
Racial Attitudes in Post-Obamacare Health Coverage (with Michael Tesler)
During Obama’s presidency, racial attitudes became not just strong predictors of attitudes towards health care but of obtaining coverage under the ACA. Emerging evidence from Trump presidency suggest that health care is becoming deracialized, however, as racial conservatism becomes a weaker predictor of support for repeal and of coverage under federal and state exchanges. This evidence suggests that racial conservatism is strongly related to not just attitudes but to behaviors as well, even those with potentially serious health consequences.
First Contact: Impact of Refugee Influx on Voting in the US (with Bryan Wilcox)
As unrest across the globe continues to forcibly displace tens of millions of people, politicians in Western Europe and the United States continue to debate the merits and risks of accepting and resettling refugees within their borders. Much like in Europe, anti-refugee fervor became a central component of the 2016 election cycle. While there is little doubt that anti-refugee attitudes played an important role in moderating support for Trump, little is known about the actual impact of refugee resettlement on the political behaviors of native-born Americans. Does the influx of refugees into a community in the US trigger racial threat and increase voting for Republican candidates? Or does exposure to refugees actually decrease threat by upending stereotypes and abstract fear? We collect a unique dataset of nearly two decades of refugee resettlement in the United States, historic election data, census demographics and economic indicators. Using synthetic control methods we estimate the impact of refugee resettlement on presidential vote totals at the county level. Contrary to expectations, when we average across localities and elections we find a 5 percentage point drop in voting for the Republicans presidential candidate. Implications are discussed.
Selective Norm Enforcement and Prejudice (with Ben Newman and Sono Shah)
Prejudice has been defined as negative feelings or antipathy, usually directed towards a group or individual of a group, that is based on faulty generalizations or stereotypes (Allport, 1954). Indeed, nearly a century of research in social psychology, political psychology, and political science has relied on some variation of this definition (Kinder, 2013). We argue that scholars have overlooked another subtle form of prejudice that we call differential norm rigor—a set of standards and intolerance of norm violating behavior that varies as a function of the group an individual belongs to. History has shown that whites have often held blacks to higher standards of behavior and presentation than their white counterparts and punished them more harshly for violating norms. We suggest that similar patterns hold for multiple out-groups in society. Using a survey experiment, we test the extent to which respondents set different standards for different groups (African Americans, Mexican immigrants, Canadian immigrants, Americans, and themselves) and differentially punish them for violation of norms. Norms of interest include language use (speaking proper English), civic behavior (volunteering, donating money, attending church), behavioral self-control (controlling temper, refraining from drinking to excess or drug use, dressing in properly fitting clothing), courtesy and deference behavior, work habits and productivity (work hard, do not expect handouts), and child rearing (teach children to respect elders). We expect that respondents will hold African Americans and Mexican immigrants to higher standards than Canadian immigrants, themselves, and Americans, writ large.
Refugees and Residential Context: Exploring the Mechanisms of Racial Threat (with Justin Gest)