SURVEY: White Vulnerability Predicts Trump Support Among Millennials
Findings in a new GenForward Survey conducted in late October suggest that support for Donald Trump could be predicted by feelings of “white vulnerability,” a measure which evaluates respondents’ belief in the idea that “white Americans are increasingly in a vulnerable position regarding both their economic positioning and general status in a society.” The study also finds that likelihood of voting for Trump is predicted by feelings of racial resentment and sexism.
The GenForward Survey is a monthly panel survey of 1,750 young adults, aged 18-30, with an oversample of youth of color. This survey is conducted by The Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
GenForward researchers constructed the white vulnerability scale, which asks respondents whether they believe “1) being white helps, hurts or makes no difference in today’s society, 2) whites are—through no fault of their own—losing ground today as compared to other racial and ethnic groups, 3) discrimination against whites is today as big a problem as discrimination against Blacks or other minorities.”
Respondents who scored high on the white vulnerability scale also reported high likelihoods of voting for Donald Trump. Whites with low values of white vulnerability reported a 9% probability of voting for Trump, while whites with a high value of white vulnerability reported a 44% probability of voting for Trump—a 33% difference. These scores are statistically significant, even with controls for feelings of racial resentment and sexism. This study suggests that claims of racism and sexism alone cannot fully explain willingness to vote for Trump—although these do explain some support for Trump.
The study also utilizes racial resentment scale, asking respondents if they feel that “1) Blacks should work their way up without any special favors, and 2) Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for Blacks to work their way out of the lower class.” These questions determine whether respondents feel that African Americans are undeserving, do not work hard, and societal discrimination is no longer a problem. Racial resentment also predicts support for Donald Trump, since whites who score high on the racial resentment scale report 35% probability of supporting Trump, while whites who score low report 8% probability of supporting Trump.
Researchers constructed a scale for “modern sexism” to capture those who may have refused to support Clinton because she is a woman. The scale asks respondents whether they believe that “1) Women miss out on good jobs due to sexual discrimination 2) society has reached the point where men and women have equal opportunities for achievement 3) it is easy to understand why women’s groups are still concerned about societal limitations of women’s opportunities.” Respondents who were likely to disagree with these statements were also more likely to report high probabilities of supporting Trump in the election—as high scores on the modern sexism scale reported a 42% probability of Trump support, while those with low modern sexism scores reported a 11% probability of Trump support.
This report demonstrates an important mix of attitudes that predicted support for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. The three variables discussed here have a high correlation—that is, those who score high on the white vulnerability scale were also likely to score high on racial resentment and modern sexism scales, which suggests that voters who support Trump are motivated not only by his economic message, but also resentment towards racial minorities and sexism towards women.
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