A new study provides insight into the unique contributions of sexist, racist, and nationalist beliefs on the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election. The study, published in PLOS One, found that Modern Racism significantly predicted voting behavior.
Despite most polls predicting a win for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016, leaving many struggling to explain the results. There have been speculations that the results reflect underlying sexist, racist, and nationalist attitudes in the American population. While some studies have investigated these claims, few have considered the isolated effects of each of these attitudes. In a new study, Natalie J. Shook and her team set out to examine the extent that sexist, racist, and nationalist beliefs were uniquely related to appraisals of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, voting intentions, and voting behavior during the 2016 U.S. election.
A national sample of 489 U.S. citizens was recruited as part of a larger study. The sample was 55% female and participants were between the ages of 19-81. The first part of the study took place between October 20 and November 7, 2016, and involved 436 subjects who expressed their intent to vote in the election. Subjects were asked which candidate they intended to vote for and then provided evaluations of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on several dimensions. Subjects additionally completed measures of nationalism, Modern Racism, and both hostile and benevolent sexism.
“In contemporary times, traditional, overt forms of racism and discrimination are generally not socially acceptable. As such, racism has become more subtle and covert, and old-fashioned measures of racism are generally not valid … Modern Racism is a more subtle form of prejudice that is conceptualized as anti-Black feelings and beliefs that are expressed in such a way that they can easily be concealed or explained away,” Shook and colleagues explain.
Results revealed that those who rated Trump more positively and those who intended to vote for Trump scored higher in Modern Racism, U.S. nationalism, hostile sexism toward women, and benevolent sexism toward women. Conversely, those who rated Clinton more positively and those who intended to vote for Clinton scored lower in all four of these attitudes.
In the second part of the study, which took place between November 9 to January 11, 2017, a subset of 192 subjects provided their vote choice.
When it came to actual voting behavior, results were in line with the first part of the study. Those who voted for Clinton scored lower in U.S. nationalism, Modern Racism, hostile sexism toward women, and benevolent sexism toward women. Those who voted for Trump, however, were scored higher in U.S. nationalism, Modern Racism, and hostile sexism toward women.
Finally, researchers used structural modeling to isolate the effects of each variable on its own. When isolated, only Modern Racism significantly predicted voting behavior. Those who scored higher in Modern Racism were more likely to have voted for Trump, and less likely to have voted for Clinton.
“Across the analyses related to both Clinton and Trump, Modern Racism was significantly associated with all outcome variables, independent of race, age, gender, party affiliation, sexism toward women, and U.S. nationalism. That is, Modern Racism was uniquely related to evaluations of and intentions to vote for Clinton and Trump,” the authors say.
The researchers suggest that during the presidency of Barack Obama, some White Americans may have felt that their status was being threatened and their ideas unrepresented. As the American population grew in diversity, racism may have spiked, contributing to increased support for Donald Trump. The authors express, “Those higher in Modern Racism may have been more inclined to endorse Trump’s views, whereas those lower in Modern Racism may have preferred Clinton’s message of unity–“Stronger Together.”
The authors disclose that the sample was not representative of the American population, and, therefore, results may not generalize to the entire voting population.
The study, “Sexism, racism, and nationalism: Factors associated with the 2016 U.S. presidential election results?”, was authored by Natalie J. Shook, Holly N. Fitzgerald, Shelby T. Boggs, Cameron G. Ford, Patricia D. Hopkins, and Nicole M. Silva.