Fear of losing status, not economic hardship, drove voters in 2016

A study done by Diana C. Mutz published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences challenges the discourse surrounding voter motivation in the 2016 election. 

The results of the study found that fears of economic insecurity or class underrepresentation did not drive voters to support Donald Trump, as public sentiment has believed. Rather, Mutz’s research concluded that a vote for Trump was a vote to re-establish a status hierarchy that existed before the population grew more diverse. In other words, white voters voted to retain a sense of social dominance, and saw the Republican candidate as a force for U.S. dominance in the global political landscape.

For her study, Mutz reviewed surveys completed by the same group of voters in 2012 and 2016. Voters who switched their vote from the Democrat ticket to Republican did not cite financial hardship as a factor. Rather, they were more influenced by issues of free trade, Chinese global power, and threats to traditional social dominance factors, i.e. white, male, and Christian.

Read more at the Annenberg School for Communication.