Why People Voted Trump

Now that we are 18 months post Trump election, there is some excellent analysis on who voted for him and why.  I thought this article (in turn based on this scholarly paper) was the best analysis I’ve seen on the topic.  It argues persuasively that voters who went Trump in the last election cycle and especially those who switched, were people who were afraid to loose status to the globalizing, diverse world we are facing.  They wanted to keep the old ways.

It wasn’t economic conditions or pocketbook issues that made the difference.  It wasn’t education that made the difference.  It was the fear of loosing status to the diverse groups, in China, Mexico and concerns about “low status groups”.

Results do not support an interpretation of the election based on pocketbook economic concerns. Instead, the shorter relative distance of people’s own views from the Republican candidate on trade and China corresponded to greater mass support for Trump in 2016 relative to Mitt Romney in 2012. Candidate preferences in 2016 reflected increasing anxiety among high-status groups rather than complaints about past treatment among low-status groups. Both growing domestic racial diversity and globalization contributed to a sense that white Americans are under siege by these engines of change.

Next thing you know, those people will be wanting to do away with the Lottery

 

For elites, politics is driven by ideology. For voters, it’s not.

I’m an elite and a very high information voter.  You probably are too.  The idea that most people don’t make their political decisions based on ideology is somewhere between odd and crazy.  However, it seems to be true…

From Vox:

If you asked an average voter in 2000 whether they were liberal, moderate, conservative, or none of the above, their answer was only 63 percent predictive of what they’d tell you two years later. For voters with very little political knowledge, ideological identity is so fragile it’s probably not even worth calling it an identity. If you are a diehard liberal or conservative who hasn’t changed your views in 20 years, look at this table and reflect on just how unusual you are.

These findings pose a profound challenge to traditional models of politics. In theory, ideology comes first and party comes second. We decide whether we’re for single-payer health care, or same-sex marriage, or abortion restriction, and then we choose the party that most closely fits our ideas. You’re a liberal and so you become a Democrat; you’re a conservative and so you become a Republican.

The truth, it seems, is closer to the reverse: We choose our party for a variety of reasons — chief among them being the preferences of our family members, core groups, and community — and then we sign on to their platforms. In this telling, write Kinder and Kalmoe, “ideological identification is primarily an effect, not a cause, of a person’s political views.”

This theory makes a prediction: If party identification is stronger than ideological identification, then as parties change their ideological identities, their loyalists will change with them, rather than abandoning them. And that’s a lot closer to what we see. The exception is high-information voters, who keep their party identification and ideological identification linked.

“One enduring lesson to carry forward is an appreciation for the deep divide between elites and publics,” write Kinder and Kalmoe. For elites, politics is driven by ideology, and that seems like the most natural thing in the world. But it’s not, and it’s hard for highly ideological actors to appreciate just how weird they really are.

Obama, Oil, and Lip-Service to Democracy

I think that the United States should promote Democracy, and our “elected” leaders say they also value it.  Noe however that when it comes to actually paying respect to Democracies, its instructive to look at how Hugo Chavez and King Abdullah were greeted by the White House upon their deaths.

King Abdullah “had the courage of his convictions” while Hugo Chavez was mentioned only in so far as “the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principals and the rule of law”.  Its too bad that we don’t value those things when it comes to Saudi Arabia.

This is of course driven by power and oil.  Both are important oil producing countries, but one collaborates with the United States and the other does not.

Source.

The Cause of Addiction

I’ve seen several things recently that have argued that drug abuse is closely connected with bad environments, especially abuse as a child.  This anecdote is a great summary of why that is:

In the 1970s, Vancouver psychology professor Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Alexander built Rat Park, a lush cage where the rats had colored balls and the best rat food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, would happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats had used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.

Obama vs Republican Standards

I thought this quick analysis from Rachel Maddow on how to judge the Obama administration’s progress  is worth remembering:
  • The Romney Standard: Mitt Romney said during the 2012 campaign that if Americans elect him, he’d get the unemployment rate down to 6% by 2016. Obama won anyway and the unemployment rate dropped below 6% two years faster.
  • The Gingrich Standard: Newt Gingrich said during the 2012 campaign that if Americans re-elected the president, gas prices would reach $10 per gallon, while Gingrich would push gas down to $2.50 a gallon. As of this morning, the national average at the pump is a little under $2.38.
  •  The Pawlenty Standard: Tim Pawlenty said trillions of dollars in tax breaks would boost economic growth to 5% GDP. Obama actually raised taxes on the wealthy and GDP growth reached 5% anyway.
Romney’s prediction was as good as predicting the sun will come up in two years if he’s elected.
I don’t know anyone who predicted the gas price swing.
Pawlenty’s prediction was made possible by the first Obama administration.  Without the Bush/Obama Stimulus packages, we would be far behind now.

Voting for your “Team” more important than their policies

This article from the Washington Post discusses the psychology of voting one’s interest verses voting for ones’ party.

Alaska elected a Republican senator and passed a recreational marijuana initiative, along with an increase in the minimum wage. North Dakota elected a Republican congressman and rejected a Personhood amendment. Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota elected a Republican senator and governor, and passed a minimum wage increase.  This led Zachary Goldfarb to write: “Americans will vote for Republicans even though they disagree with them on everything.”

My research suggests a key reason why this happened: our partisan identities motivate us far more powerfully than our views about issues. Although voters may insist in the importance of their values and ideologies, they actually care less about policy and more that their team wins.

This “team spirit” is increasingly powerful because our party identities line up with other powerful identities, such as religion and race. Over the last few decades, Republicans have generally grown increasingly white and churchgoing, while Democrats have become more non-white and secular. This sorting of identities makes us care even more about winning, and less about what our government actually gets done.