A new study finds that fear of societal change, not economic pressure, motivated votes for the president among non-salaried workers without college degrees.
White Americans carried Donald Trump to the White House. He won college-educated white voters by a four-point margin over Hillary Clinton, according to exit polls. But his real victory was among members of the white working class: Twice as many of these voters cast their ballots for the president as for Clinton.
In the wake of Trump’s surprise win, some journalists, scholars, and political strategists argued that economic anxiety drove these Americans to Trump. But new analysis of post-election survey data conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic found something different: Evidence suggests financially troubled voters in the white working class actually preferred Clinton over Trump. Besides partisan affiliation, it was cultural anxiety—feeling like a stranger in America, supporting the deportation of immigrants, and hesitating about educational investment—that best predicted support for Trump.