Trump and the triumph of the xenophobes

Nice Op-Ed from Political Scientist Phil Klinkner using the latest ANES data to look at Trumps support in 2016.  The key issue– immigration:

Comparing the results of the 2012 and 2016 ANES surveys shows that Trump increased his vote over Mitt Romney’s on a number of immigration-related issues. In 2012 and 2016, the ANES asked respondents their feelings toward immigrants in the country illegally. Respondents could rate them anywhere between 100 (most positive) or 0 (most negative). Among those with positive views (above 50), there was no change between 2012 and 2016, with Romney and Trump each receiving 22% of the vote. Among those who had negative views, however, Trump did better than Romney, capturing 60% of the vote compared with only 55% for Romney…

Attitudes toward immigrants in the country illegally speak to why some voters switched parties between 2012 and 2016. Among those who voted in both elections but didn’t switch their vote, the average rating of immigrants in the country illegally was 42. Among those who switched from Romney to Hillary Clinton, it was 41. But those who switched their vote from President Obama to Trump were much more negative, with an average rating of only 32…

However, Trump’s support wasn’t limited to just those who oppose immigrants residing in the country illegally — he also picked up votes among those who want to limit all immigration to the United States. In 2012, Romney received 58% of the vote among those who said they think that “the number of immigrants from foreign countries who are permitted to come to the United States” should be decreased. In 2016, Trump got 74% of the vote among those who held this view.

Overall, immigration represented one of the biggest divides between Trump and Clinton voters. Among Trump voters, 67% endorsed building a southern border wall and 47% of them favored it a great deal. In contrast, 77% of Clinton voters opposed building a wall and 67 % strongly opposed it.

Obviously no one issue decides an election, but obviously, immigration was a very important part of Trump’s support.  I like Drum’s take on this:

This gibes with my anecdotal view that a fair number of Trump voters didn’t pay much attention to anything he said except that he was going to build a wall and keep the Mexicans out. All the budget and regulation and Obamacare and climate change stuff was just noise that they didn’t take very seriously. But building a wall was nice and simple, and they thought it would bring back their jobs and keep their towns safe.

Meanwhile, Peter Beinart has a nice piece arguing that Trumpism will outlast Bannon:

That’s the case with Steve Bannon today. He may have fallen out of Trump’s favor. But inside the GOP, the tribal nationalism he espouses is rising nonetheless…

Perhaps because he was not beholden to the GOP’s pro-immigration business and political elites, he embraced the Jeff Sessions-Ann Coulter line that third-world immigration—legal as well as illegal—was a problem. And through his success, he showed how potent anti-immigration sentiment was inside the GOP. Over the course of the campaign, as Molly Ball has noted, “Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, even Jeb Bush” moved toward Trump’s position.

That trend has continued since Trump’s election. This year, when two Republican senators proposed cutting legal immigration in half, Rubio—who had celebrated legal immigration during his campaign—said he was open to the idea. As Ramesh Ponnuru has noted, “immigration is rapidly becoming a defining issue for American conservatism.” Jared Kushner can wield all the influence he wants. Bannon’s views on immigration are ascendant in the GOP.

Of course, there’s many articles, like today’s in the Times, talking about “Trump’s drift away from populism” as he mostly governs like a pretty conventional conservative.  And, the exception– immigration:

It may be that nationalist is a better description. “As long as he does his hard-line stuff on immigrants, he’s going to hold onto a lot of those people,” [emphasis mine] said John B. Judis, author of the new book “The Populist Explosion.” Mr. Trump may not succeed in rebuilding the manufacturing sector or winning trade wars with China, Mr. Judis added, but they want to see him trying. “If we don’t have another downturn for the next three or four years, he’ll keep his support.”

So, there you go, welcome to Trump’s xenophobia-driven Republican Party.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to Trump and the triumph of the xenophobes

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    Not only are Trump supporters largely anti-immigrant but anti other “different” citizens which is reflected in his campaigning as the “law and order” candidate with uncritical support of police.
    It’s not just about immigrants.

  2. rgbact says:

    The irony is Romney was stronger on immigration than Trump. Trump just had lots of bluster, and caved quickly on his tougher rhetoric. Probably won’t accomplish much. Hasn’t touched immigration reform yet.

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