Tag Archives: elections

Don’t think economic anxiety is rational and racial anxiety is not


Photo by Patrick Feller (and check out his essay about it: https://flic.kr/p/6voQ7g)

Here’s a very quick thought, over which I’m happy to hear objections.

You know how people say “inner city” or “urban” or “low-income” instead of Black because they don’t want to seem racist by mentioning race? This debate over whether Trump supporters are motivated by economic anxiety or racism reminds me of that.*

The debate seems to divide class leftists from race leftists. Some class leftists want to emphasize the economic anxieties of racist Whites (with which they are sympathetic), and the race leftists want to emphasize the racism of economically anxious Whites (which they want to expose). In the regular liberal media, at the same time, there is the common tendency to treat class anxiety as rational and material while any racial motivations are by definition irrational and emotional (which makes “I don’t see race” a moral high ground.)

But Whites losing their race privilege is a real, material concern. And losing class privilege motivates ugly hatred and animosity too. What if “China” threatens your jobs, and your emotional response is to support a dictator who opposes imports and immigration (which will do nothing for you economically)? What if a Black president and anti-discrimination laws threaten your privileged access to relatively high status social recognition, and your rational response is to support school segregation and oppose affirmative action (which might actually protect your privileged status)?

Of course, defense of both class or race privilege can be emotional and ugly and vitriolic, and they always are coming from the mouths of Trump supporters. And you could reasonably argue that all people would be better off embracing a more open and inclusive politics even if it cost them some ill-gotten gain. But those defenses can also be rational and material, and the privileges they protect may need to be forcefully degraded rather than just reasoned away.

Why should Trump supporters motivated by economic anxiety be any more deserving of respect than those motivated by racial anxiety? That’s the politics of our time; don’t treat it as fixed or essential.

Now, you wouldn’t excuse rich bankers supporting a dictator because they had anxiety about their economic position, even though they might really have a lot of economic anxiety. So Why would you excuse White working-class people from supporting a dictator because of their economic anxieties? Is it because they’re actually poor or economically insecure? Well, they’re poorer and more economically insecure than the people having this conversation, but not compared with actual poor people in this country or — shudder — in most of the world that disgusts them.

It is an empirical question whether the anxieties around race are more or less rational than the anxieties around economics for White working-class Americans. Losing your race privilege might mean getting worse service from schools and emergency services and police, and not seeing your people in high status and visible cultural positions, and not hearing your music all the time, and so on and on. These are all the things minorities want. Of course I don’t feel sorry for people losing them like I do for people who never had them, but the issues are the same. You can’t say minorities are rational for demanding these things and then say Whites are irrational for trying to hold onto them. You could (and should) argue it’s not a zero-sum game, of course, but that’s an empirical question and a matter to be worked out through politics and cultural change.

People who support Trump definitely are anxious about losing things of value as the world changes, and their response is deplorable and must be opposed — regardless of the relative mix of economic and racial components in their minds.

* Not doing a full lit review, but to get a sense of it, read and follow the links in pieces by Dylan Matthews, Mike Konczal, Derek Thompson, or Michael Tesler, Brian Beutler, and there must be some other White men I’m missing. Feel free to recommend readings you prefer in the comments.


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Not-too-racist Whites of America: Do you want to be that person?

Everyone is at least a little racist. But hardly any Whites really actively want to hate Blacks and people from other racial-ethnic minority groups. And I bet that includes a lot of people who are thinking of voting for Trump. So this is for people who don’t want to be haters, or even seen as haters.

Think about it this way: Voting is pretty symbolic. Your individual vote is really not going to make the difference. But it says something about who you are, to yourself at least, and to anyone else who knows.

So look at these polling results for African Americans in five key states. Between 2 and 5 out of every 100 Black voters says they support Trump:


If you vote for Trump, because you’re angry about politicians who never get anything done, or you don’t trust Hillary, or you think it’s time for a change in Washington, think about this: do you want to spend the next four or eight years knowing that you voted against virtually every Black person who you will know or meet during that time?

Maybe they’re wrong. But I think, if you’re not the hating kind, it might gnaw at you, and you might feel better if you didn’t take that stand against them. I’m not trying to change your political views in a short blog post, but I do think we’ll get along better – and you will too – if you don’t vote for Trump.


NYT/Siena: North Carolina, 9/16-9/19

Detroit Free Press: Michigan, 9/10-9/13

NYT/Siena: Florida, 9/10-/14

Monmouth: Georgia, 9/15-9/18

UMW: Virginia, 9/6-9/12


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81 countries made more progress than the USA on women’s representation

The Inter-Parliamentary Union has a great archive of women’s representation in parliaments in most countries, from 1997 to 2016. I made this figure using the numbers for the lower houses (or single houses, if only one), which in the USA is the House of Representatives.

From 1997 to 2016, women rose from 12% to 19% of House members. During that time, for 163 countries, the average rose from 10% to 21%. When I cut the list down to 137, arbitrarily excluding a lot of very small countries, the USA slipped from 54th place to 84th place. Here’s the breakdown of changes in those countries (click to enlarge):

countries ranked by women's representation in parliament, 1997-2016

At this rate, in just 36 more years the House will get to the level of women’s representation that Hanna Rosin said Congress was at in 2012.

Previous posts:

Note: The code for making this figure in Stata looks like this:

gr twoway scatter rank16 rank97, mlabel(country) mlabposition(0) msymbol(i)

Before tinkering with the appearance and titles in the graph editor.


Filed under In the news

More on racist Trump supporters, and My 3Qs

It’s been hard for me to stay out of electoral politics debates lately (follow the elections tag if you’re having the same problem).

The latest is another piece with Sean McElwee in Salon. It again features my analysis of the ANES 2016 pilot survey, with Sean’s write-up, this time focusing on attitudes of White Trump supporters toward Blacks. The short answer is White Trump supporters stereotype Blacks more than other Republican or Democrat Whites, and people with self-described “cold” feelings toward Blacks are most likely to support Trump. The biggest difference was on answers to the question, “How well does the word ‘lazy’ describe most blacks?”

race figures.xlsx

This ANES data has lots of potential for addressing the pressing questions on a breaking-news basis. Whether it holds up (it’s an opt-in online survey) is yet to be seen, but I haven’t seen a reason to think it would be biased toward producing racist Trump supporters. So I think it’s worth doing. (I’ve also discovered that when you criticize Trump on a popular website like Salon, and have a Jewish name, you attract anti-Semitic Twitter.)

My 3 Qs

In other news, I did a short interview with Molly McNulty, the Council on Contemporary Families pubic affairs intern at Framingham State University.  It’s reprinted here from the CCF site on The Society Pages:

TSP readers likely appreciate Philip Cohen for his provocative blog, Family Inequality, which—based on a look at who retweets him—regularly has material valued by undergraduates, senior scholars, data nerds, policy wonks, and journalists alike. Cohen is a Council on Contemporary Families senior scholar and a professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. His research focuses on the sociology of families, social demography, and social inequality. His family textbook, The Family: Diversity, Inequality, and Social Change, was published in 2014. Cohen gave me these useful answers to my “3q”:

Q: First, a challenge: What’s one single thing you “know” with certainty, after years of research into modern families?

PC: Family inequality is remarkably resilient, but when it changes it does so under the influence of external forces. When women’s opportunities increase (or men’s decrease), when public investment in education increases, when the legal environment changes when technology permits reductions in household labor, when policies lighten (or compensate) the load of caring labor — that’s when inequality within families shifts. There is a dialectic here, and micro-level interactions within families matter, but these external forces are in the historical driver’s seat.

Q: Give us the “Twitter” version of your current research—in 140 characters (give or take), what are you working on now?

PC: This is what I’m working on today, in 140 characters: The culture wars over family politics always return to gender difference itself; it’s what’s at stake when left & right fight over families.

Q: How would you encourage a scholar of family life to work to get their research into public life, affecting policy and challenging assumptions about “average families”?

PC: The public loves to argue about families. There are lots of opportunities to get your work out there and make it relevant. Unlike some areas of sociological research, if you’re working on families, almost everything has a potential angle — in fact, one of the challenges is to not oversell the implications of our research. There is also a lot of translational work to do — interpreting and explaining new data and research as it comes out, helping people figure out what to make of the latest findings in the context of what we already know rather than participating in the whipsaw advice machine that thrives on contradicting conventional wisdom. I recommend that junior scholars get involved with the Council on Contemporary Families, which helps organize and transmit new research responsibly and effectively, and to look for opportunities to publish popular pieces in online venues that encourage well-reasoned and empirically-grounding discussion and debate.

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Filed under In the news, Me @ work

Trump supporters don’t like Muslims

Sean McElwee and I have a piece on Salon about the relationship between hating Muslims and supporting Donald Trump. The empirical facts are that people who support Trump hold nasty stereotypes about Muslims, and dislike them, more even than the average Republican.

Sean did most of the writing, and I produced two of the figures. I hope you’ll read it (and check out Sean on Twitter if you like funny leftism). The data, the ANES 2016 Pilot Study, which was collected in January, is available free (with registration) here.  I put my code for these figures here; feel free to use it if you’re interested in the data (lots of good potential there).

Here are the two figures. The first shows the responses to the question of how well the word “violent” describes “most Muslims.” The Trump supporters are in gray, all Republicans are red, and Democrats are Blue.* Trump supporters have by far the nastiest views:

muslim and hispanic figures.xlsx

The second is from models predicting whether respondents support Trump, identifies as Republican, or identifies as Democrat, as a function of their feelings toward Muslims. In the models, hating Muslims increases the odds of being a Trump supporter or Republican, and lowers the odds of being a Democrat. The slopes for Trump and Republican are significantly different, meaning the nasty relationship is strongest for Trump support.

muslim and hispanic figures.xlsx

Here is the conclusion:

The explanation of Trump’s success is simple: The latent racism, xenophobia and other powerful social forces fostered by the right for decades have simply been extended by Trump to their next logical extreme. As racial scholar Ian Haney-Lopezwrites,

“[George W.] Bush was careful to cabin his remarks in terms of extremists and ‘a perverted visions of Islam,’ but the global terms in which he framed his analysis belied such fine distinctions.”

That is, Bush’s language “was operating more in the register of a dog whistle, a way to advance a basically racial message while still maintaining plausible deniability.” Even today, Bush is seen as more moderate on issues related to Islamophobia. But the aggressive domestic surveillance policies he pursued, and the rhetoric of the last few years indicate Islamophobia was ripe on the right. Trump is just the most successful politician to date at picking the fruit.

* We restricted Trump supporters to those who identified as Republican or independent, since everyone was asked to pick their favorite Republican and we didn’t think Democrats were likely to really support Trump.


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The one big thing that might doom Trump in November

Race, obviously.

The other day I wondered what issues offered potential for the left-side party to raid the right-side for some voters. But that’s abstract compared to this actual election. This is my thought on what happens if it comes down to Trump and Clinton.

John Cassidy at the New Yorker runs through some speculation about how Trump could win a general election. It seems to boil down to bringing in enough White working-class voters to win Rustbelt states that Obama won like Michigan (Obama +9.5%), Pennsylvania (Obama +5.2%), and Ohio (Obama +1.9%). Setting aside his prospects among Whites, I’m very skeptical he can win those states (or some others) with basically no Black and very few Latino votes.

To show the depth of ill will between Trump and African Americans, here are the feeling thermometer distributions from the 2016 ANES Pilot Study, taken in late January. People were asked to rate candidates from 0 (very cold, unfavorable) to 100 (very warm, favorable).

Lots of people hate Trump, but no group hates him like African Americans (other variables, like age and education, perform as expected, but nothing is as strong). Obama got something more than 90% of Black vote in 2012. It’s hard to see even 10% of Black voters going for Trump. Especially given Hillary Clinton as an opponent. She might not inspire the same turnout as Obama, but she’s very popular among Black voters. Here are her thermometers:

That Black Clinton thermometer is a basically a mirror-image of the one for Trump. The poor feeling toward Clinton among Whites is obviously a problem, but I still think Blacks and Hispanics can sink Trump.

For what it’s worth, the racial feeling seems mutual. ANES also asked the feeling thermometer about Blacks. Here are the White feelings toward Blacks, adjusted for age, gender, and education level — according to their feelings toward Trump:

The linear trend, which is highly significant, is about one-eighth of a point down on Blacks for every point up on Trump. That’s America for you – even though Trump is mostly going after immigrants and Muslims in this election, racism is always also about the Black-White thing.

(Follow the elections tag for the series.)

Disclaimer: I’m not a political polling expert, this isn’t real research and it hasn’t been reviewed, and I could be completely wrong.f


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How the left can win the general election

Of course, I have no idea how anyone can win any election, but that’s what this post is about anyway, and no one ever got clicks by admitting they aren’t sure. This is just a little election nervous energy, dedicated to David Brooks, who says “data driven” campaigns have been a fiasco. (Follow this series at the elections tag.)

With all this talk of political realignment, and the impending fracturing of the Republican Party, I was wondering how the parties might shake out if something serious really did happen. I struck me that the GOP establishment is really upset right now because the beast they have been cultivating (the racist, xenophobic, sexist, anti-gay, anti-science beast) is suddenly turning on them in way that threatens the things that really matter: keeping taxes and regulation from impeding their accumulation of wealth. As if what they really want is their mass of gullible voters back from Trump.

Anyway, I looked at the American National Election Studies 2016 pilot data, which asked 1,200 people a lot of attitude questions, as well as how they feel about the candidates. My question was, how are left and right divided now, and what might happen if things broke differently.

Breaking away

The results are all in the figures below. To make these I used Stata’s cluster kmeans command, which breaks a sample into the number of clusters you specify according to the distribution of means on the variables you list. Using math. This is nice for politics because it forces each person to choose a cluster, just like voting for a party. I used the feelings and issues you see in the top part of the figure to create the clusters, and then checked to see how the members of each cluster feel about the candidates. I ignored voter demographics, just taking into account their opinions. I used Excel’s conditional formatting to color-code from green to red (but check the coding because left and right don’t run the same way for each question — note if the item is “oppose” on a scale of 1-7, then 3 or less is “favor”).

The first figure is a two-cluster scheme. Every potential voter has to pick a party. In the two-party scheme a few major differences stand out. The left feels much better about scientists, gays and lesbians, and feminists. They are more interested in action on climate change, paid leave, equal pay for women, and big government generally. They favor affirmative action at universities and raising the minimum wage. They think legal immigration is good. Issues that don’t divide left and right so much are feelings about the police, free trade, and crime. The death penalty is not huge. The left’s favorite person is Sanders, but they like Clinton, too. They hate Trump. Here’s the first figure (click to enlarge):

The left here is only 45% of potential voters, so come November they need to raid the right somewhere – but where? To answer that I specified four clusters instead of two. This gives the left and right two center categories to fight over. Now the two left parties together sum to 45%, so for the left to win, I figure they need to find issues they can use to pull people away from the right, so I’m especially looking for big differences between the right and center-right. The good news for the left here is that the right is only 22%, so there is a lot of potential for poaching the center-right. In this figure, I highlighted a few key left-right divisions arbitrarily. Here’s the figure, with my comment below (click to enlarge):

Fortunately for the left, the right is blinded by their hatred of gays and lesbians and feminists. The center-right is much more tolerant, especially of gays and lesbians. So that seems like a good wedge. I say “tolerant” because the center-left isn’t really crazy about gays and lesbians or feminists, so going all the way to awesome in that area might be a turnoff to them.

The other good ones for the left are equal pay for women and legal immigration. The right hates them but everyone else is positive. Science is also good for the left, as the right doesn’t like scientists much, and the center-right is very into vaccination.

On the other hand, the center-right is very pro-police, so that may not be a winner for the left. The anti-police right isn’t coming all the way over, so it doesn’t help that they’re not pro-police. Also, affirmative action and the minimum wage aren’t good for pulling out the center-right. In general, the Chamber of Commerce type issues — climate change action, free trade, and big government, don’t help the left split the right much.

One caution is that the center left doesn’t like Clinton much — no better than they like Rubio, in fact. They are more positive about Sanders.

Obviously, how to work this into a campaign — with all the other issues that entails — is way beyond me. That’s why this is free.


Filed under Politics