A panel of political scientists from the University of Michigan and Duke University gathered at the University’s Institute for Social Research on Thursday to discuss the rise of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
The panel consisted of Ken Kollman, director of the Center for Political Studies at the Institute for Social Research and professor of political science; Michael Traugott, research professor in the Center for Political Studies and emeritus professor of communication studies and political science; Ted Brader, research professor in the Center for Political Studies and professor of political science; and Ashley Jardina, assistant professor of political science at Duke University.
Kollman began by noting the unsurprising nature of Trump’s success, as political parties convulse at least once or twice during an individual’s lifetime. He said Trump is connecting with an angry sector of Americans who believe the country is moving away from them.
“Trump is tapping into longings that people have to see prominent people in public positions express nativist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant and anti-corporate views,” Kollman said. “He is certainly raising the salience of these issues.”
Kollman also discussed the way in which Trump appeals to different age groups, highlighting how most young voters do not support him.
“In predicting the future of the Republicans, we have to watch how (Trump) does with the younger voters — whether enough of them find his appeals offensive or if enough of them find it taps into how they really feel but can’t openly express.”
Jardina drew upon the correlation between strong racial identity of being white and support for Trump. According to Jardina — referencing various data sets and studies — white Americans increasingly feel their racial group has been threatened and are seeking to protect their dominance. She noted, however, that this sentiment does not necessarily imply hostility toward other races.
“While there is some overlap between those whites who feel some sense of solidarity or attachment to their group and those whites who we would call racially prejudiced or resentful, these two sentiments are not the same,” Jardina said.
Traugott talked about macro trends in the United States, including increasing partisanship, uneven economic recovery and the demographic shift in which whites are becoming less populous in comparison to minority groups.
Traugott also pointed to the high unfavorability of both Trump and Hillary Clinton, as they are the least-liked candidates in recent elections.
“I think this will be a low-turnout election,” he said. “In fact, there will be a lot of people holding their nose about their choice, and some of them in the end will decide not to go.”
Brader looked to the future in his talk, focusing on the American National Elections Strategies, a group at the University and Stanford University which examines data from pre- and post-election surveys to determine what motivating factors led to a particular outcome in an election. Brader explained a variety of factors the ANES plans to look at, including policy issues, voter predispositions toward authoritarianism and racial and gender identities.
Brader said — while the audience has a multitude of motivations and questions — his work aims to answer those questions after the election is over.
“People come here with a mix of emotions,” he said. “Some of you may be excited about the topic of today’s talk, some of you may be a little bit anxious, some of you may just be curious. Hopefully, our presentations today help you contextualize (the rise of Trump).”