Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel, released statistical findings that show perceptions about diversity were a large determining factor as to how voters in the 2016 Presidential Election voted, but were a non-factor in the 2012 and 2008 Presidential Election. McElwee is a Policy Analyst at “Demos”, and McDaniel is an Associate Professor at San Francisco State University.
The researchers conducted a regression analysis on the Cooperative Congressional Analysis Project data set, a survey instrument used to interview respondents during both the 2012 and 2016 elections (a panel survey). Because the survey includes data on multiple elections, they could compare how views on perceptions about diversity have shifted support for political candidates. For our analysis, we explored four questions about how rising diversity would impact the nation:
Now, as you may know, census projections show that by 2043, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and other mixed racial and ethnic groups will together be a majority of the population. Thinking about the likely impact of this coming demographic change, how much you agree or disagree with each of these statements?
- Americans will learn more from one another and be enriched by exposure to many different cultures.
- A bigger, more diverse workforce will lead to more economic growth.
- There will be too many demands on government services.
- There will not be enough jobs for everybody.
We combined these variables into a single measure, with 0 meaning most likely to believe that demographic change will have positive consequences and 1 indicating views that diversity will have negative consequences. As displayed in the chart below, opinions about increasing racial diversity vary across racial groups, partisan lines, and education levels. The average score on the diversity scale is .44, indicating that Americans lean towards being more optimistic about rising diversity. However, the average white person views increasing racial diversity more negatively than the average person of color in America. Whites were less optimistic about diversity, with a mean score of .47, compared to .34 for African Americans, .40 among Latinos, and .37 among Asians. Republicans and those with a high-school diploma or less exhibit the highest amount of negativity towards increasing racial diversity in America.
McElwee and McDaniel found that opinions about how increasing racial diversity will affect American society had much more impact on support for Trump during the 2016 election compared to support for the Republican candidates in the two previous presidential elections. They also found that individuals with high levels of racial resentment who voted for Obama in 2012 were more likely to switch to Trump in 2016, but those with low racial resentment and more positive views about rising diversity who voted for Romney 2012 were more likely not to vote for but Trump in 2016. If that part about voters with “racial resentment” voting for Obama seems counterintuitive, it is. Assume that someone with racial resentment could vote for Obama despite their racial resentment. The study did not stratify those with a high degree of racial resentment by ethnicity so all respondents with a high degree of racial resentment, regardless of race who voted for Obama are lumped in the same group. Just a s white person with racial resentment could have voted for Obama in 2012 so could have a black, Hispanic or Asian voter…
The researchers concluded that Donald Trump successfully leveraged existing resentment towards African Americans in combination with emerging fears of increased racial diversity in America to reshape the presidential electorate, strongly attracting nativists towards Trump and pushing some more affluent and highly educated people with more cosmopolitan views to support Hillary Clinton. Racial identity and attitudes have further displaced class as the central battleground of American politics. The first step to overcoming subconscious bias is to first be aware that we ALL have the capacity to be racist. Be forthright and ask yourself are my actions being informed by irrational fear? If so, take appropriate action!