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Ideological Heterogeneity and the Rise of Donald Trump


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In the days after the 2016 election, a variety of explanations has been offered to explain Donald Trump’s unique ascendancy in American politics. Scholars have discussed Trump’s appeal to rural voters, his hybrid media campaign strategy, shifts in voter turnout, Hillary Clinton’s campaign advertising strategy, economic anxiety, differences in sexist and racist attitudes among Trump voters and so forth. Here, we add another key factor to the conversation: Trump’s appeal to a smaller, often ignored, segment of the electorate: populist voters. Building upon our previous work – demonstrating that while American political elites compete across a single dimension of conflict, the American people organize their attitudes around two distinct dimensions, one economic and one social – we use 2008 American National Elections Study (ANES) data and 2016 ANES primary election data to show that populist support for Trump, and nationalist policies themselves, help us to understand how Trump captured the Republican nomination and the White House.
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The Forum 2016; 14(4): 385–397
Edward G. Carmines*, Michael J. Ensley* and
Michael W. Wagner*
Ideological Heterogeneity and the Rise of
Donald Trump
DOI 10.1515/for-2016-0036
Abstract: In the days after the 2016 election, a variety of explanations has
been offered to explain Donald Trump’s unique ascendancy in American poli-
tics. Scholars have discussed Trump’s appeal to rural voters, his hybrid media
campaign strategy, shifts in voter turnout, Hillary Clinton’s campaign advertis-
ing strategy, economic anxiety, differences in sexist and racist attitudes among
Trump voters and so forth. Here, we add another key factor to the conversation:
Trump’s appeal to a smaller, often ignored, segment of the electorate: populist
voters. Building upon our previous work – demonstrating that while American
political elites compete across a single dimension of conflict, the American
people organize their attitudes around two distinct dimensions, one economic
and one social – we use 2008 American National Elections Study (ANES) data and
2016 ANES primary election data to show that populist support for Trump, and
nationalist policies themselves, help us to understand how Trump captured the
Republican nomination and the White House.
There are nearly as many explanations for Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016
presidential election as there are electoral votes that Trump captured. Scholars
have pointed to Trump’s ability to capitalize upon the resentment of rural voters
(Cramer 2016), his use of the news media to perform key party coordination func-
tions (Azari 2016), his hybrid-media campaign style of engaging in traditional
press events and non-traditional “tweet storms” to generate coverage (Wells
etal. 2016), his appeal to sexist (Wayne, Valentino, and Ocento 2016) and racist
(Schaffner 2016) voters, his support from those who prefer authoritarian, nation-
alist leaders (Rahn and Oliver 2016) and the traditional “fundamental” explana-
tions of elections (Masket 2016).
*Corresponding authors: Edward G. Carmines, Department of Political Science, Indiana
University, USA, e-mail:; Michael J. Ensley, Department of Political
Science, Kent State University, USA, e-mail:; and Michael W. Wagner,
School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin, USA,
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386 Edward G. Carmines etal.
At the 2016 Elections Research Center Election Symposium at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison in December, 2016, scholars from across the US added expla-
nations of “what happened?” to the mix. Erika Franklin Fowler pointed out that
Hillary Clinton followed a non-traditional television advertising strategy of empha-
sizing the personal characteristics of her opponent rather than her own policy
positions, as most candidates have. Samara Klar revealed evidence that Independ-
ents who are high self-monitors refrain from visible, public displays of partisan-
ship (i.e. yard signs) while continuing to vote in partisan ways. Katherine J. Cramer
presented evidence from conversations, conducted after the election with Trump
voters, revealing that many Trump supporters wanted to do something different at
the ballot box, even if they do not expect the new president to be able to keep his
promises. Young Mie Kim investigated the digital micro-targeting experienced by
voters. Barry Burden presented evidence about how gender may have influenced
the vote. Byron Shafer and Regina Wagner argued that the 2016 outcome was part
and parcel of a long-standing pattern of election results going back decades.
We believe that these explanations are extraordinarily useful in helping
scholars, journalists and the public unpack how Donald Trump captured the
White House. Our own perspective, however, offers another explanation to con-
sider: Trump held onto traditional elements of the Republican coalition while
simultaneously appealing to populist voters in a way that modern Republicans
have not been able to do. The evidence we present here, confined to analyses
of the 2008 American National Election Study and the 2016 primary election
season, build upon our work examining how the ideological heterogeneity of the
American electorate helps us understand the conditional mass polarization of
the American electorate (Carmines, Ensley, and Wagner 2011, 2012a,b, 2014). In
short, we show that ideologically populist Americans – voters who have tradi-
tionally made up small portions of the Democratic and (especially) Republican
electoral coalitions – have historically held issue preferences that matched the
policy positions expressed by Donald Trump in the 2016 primaries. We further
present evidence from the 2016 primary season that reveals populists were a
far more important part of Donald Trump’s coalition than has been the case for
Republican presidential candidates over the past half century.
Ideological Heterogeneity and Conditional Mass
It is well-established that the conflict space of American party elites is arrayed
along a dominant left-right ideological dimension (McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal
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Ideological Heterogeneity and the Rise of Donald Trump387
2006). Of course, the meaning of this ideological dimension has changed, as it
has incorporated racial, social and religious issues into what was once primarily
an economic dimension of conflict. Social and religious issues like abortion and
prayer in public schools have not replaced economic issues.
Rather these newer cultural conflicts have joined economic issues in both
broadening and re- defining the liberal-conservative dimension of American poli-
tics (Highton 2012). Geoffrey Layman and Thomas Carsey have referred to this
transformation as “conflict extension” and its existence has been documented
among strong partisans in the electorate, party activists and political elites
(Layman and Carsey 2002a,b; Carsey and Layman 2006; Layman etal. 2010).
But unlike political elites, mass level preferences on policy issues have not
collapsed onto a single liberal-conservative dimension. Instead, among the
general public preferences on most salient domestic policy issues vary along not
one but two related but separate dimensions, one defined mainly by economic
and social welfare issues and the second by social, cultural and religious issues
(Shafer and Claggett 1995; and Claggett and Shafer 2010; Carmines, Ensley, and
Wagner 2012a). The issues that make up the first dimension are distributional in
character; traditionally they focused on the size and scope of government, espe-
cially the role of the national governments in intervening in the economy and
providing for the general welfare. More recently, these issues have centered on
the extent to which government has a responsibility for reducing social and eco-
nomic inequalities. Economic issues have been at the heart of liberal-conserva-
tive conflict in America since the founding but they took on renewed importance
during the New Deal era, as the country struggled with what responsibility the
national government had in alleviating the effects of the Great Depression. Even
more recently, racial issues, which historically had formed a separate, second
dimension of political conflict, have fused onto this dimension since many con-
temporary race-related issues are distributional in character (see Kellstedt 2003;
Noel 2014).
The cultural, or social, dimension of conflict – issues that focus on the role of
government in enforcing and regulating appropriate moral and social behavior –
has also played an important role throughout American political history although
only in the contemporary era has it been a defining issue cleavage separating
the major parties. More frequently, cultural conflicts have played out within each
party’s coalition, setting party factions against one another.
At various times, cultural issues have also been a key motivating factor in the
launching of third party efforts. Historically, cultural conflicts primarily involved
intra-party rather than inter-party conflicts.
What is distinctive about contemporary American politics, then, is not the
existence or even the salience of cultural conflicts – issues such as women’s
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388 Edward G. Carmines etal.
suffrage, public education and pornography have been contentious topics in
American politics at various times – but that in the current era cultural issues
have divided rather than cut across party lines. The 1980 presidential election
marked a pivotal point in the partisan evolution of cultural conflicts; in the cam-
paign the Republican Party made a major effort to attract the support of cultural
and religious conservatives who had been largely apolitical until this point but
have since become a core element in the GOP’s electoral coalition. Simultane-
ously, starting with the 1972 presidential campaign of George McGovern, cultural
liberals and religious secularists have moved steadily into the Democratic Party
and have become a significant part of the party’s coalition.
Hetherington and Weiler (2009) note that in recent years the rise of these
social and cultural issues, which are broadly related to citizens’ support for
authoritarianism, has created a deeper, more emotional feeling of polarization
among supporters of the two major parties (see also Abramowitz 2013).
Since these two basic dimensions of political conflict have not collapsed onto
a single liberal-conservative dimension at the level of the electorate as a whole
this must mean that the citizenry is composed not just of liberals and conserva-
tives who have consistently liberal or conservative positions on both economic
and social issues – which may be termed the “main diagonal” of ideological
conflict since it reflects the structure of political preferences found among party
elites and the political class more generally.
Crucially, from our standpoint, the existence of the second dimension means
that there are a significant number of citizens whose issue preferences place them
in the “off diagonal” policy space, as their combination of policy preferences do
not reflect the elite template. Citizens with heterodox policy preferences come in
two varieties: those who have liberal positions on economic issues and conserva-
tive preferences on social issues or vice versa. We refer to the former as populists
and the latter as libertarians (Carmines, Ensley, and Wagner 2012a,b). Populists
and libertarians thus have a set of policy preferences that are opposite of one
another; they are just as polarized from each other as liberals are from conserva-
tives. But they are alike in one fundamental regard, a regard that sets them apart
from liberals and conservatives: neither libertarians nor populists have policy
preferences that align with the ideological divide represented by the two major
parties. Quite the contrary, libertarians are closer to the Republican position on
the economic issue dimension but closer to the Democratic position on social
issues while populists are nearer the Democratic Party on economic issues but
the Republican Party on social issues. Unlike liberals and conservatives, in other
words, libertarians and populists are cross- pressured, having no clear ideologi-
cal incentive to adopt the polarized beliefs and behaviors of either Republican or
Democratic Party elites (see Klar 2014).
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Ideological Heterogeneity and the Rise of Donald Trump389
Ideological Heterogeneity and Support for
Nationalist Public Policies
While most of the Republican candidates for president spent the 2016 primaries
running traditional campaigns that had candidates working to raise money, take
conservative positions on a variety of issues, advertise and seek elite endorse-
ments, Donald Trump pursued an entirely different strategy. Rather than avoid-
ing controversy, Trump courted it. Instead of working to earn the endorsements of
members of the Republican establishment, Trump claimed that party elites were
part of the problem. Azari (2016) has argued that Trump used the news media to
disseminate his message in a way that helped him to perform vital coordination
functions that would normally be conducted by a political party. As Wells etal.,
(2016) put it, Trump’s “mastery of conventional and digital media – hybrid cam-
paigning – helped drive his coverage to the nomination” (p. 675).
One strategy Trump employed during these media appearances and tweets
was to espouse issue preferences consistent with the support of nationalist poli-
cies – policies Trump argued were central to the ability to “make American great
again.” Rahn and Oliver (2016) wrote in the Washington Post’s political science
blog The Monkey Cage that Trump supporters had a strong national identity and
supported authoritarian governing styles.
Support for nationalist policies is unevenly distributed across liberals, con-
servatives, libertarians, populists and moderates. To develop an understanding
of the voters who might be most likely to favorably respond to Trump’s message,
we examined data from the 2008 American National Election Study (ANES) on
respondents’ opinions about four issues: (1) how likely is it that immigration takes
away jobs; (2) should the government discourage companies from outsourcing;
(3) favor the torture of terrorist suspects; and (4) do Blacks have too much influ-
ence on politics. To identify which ideological group a respondent belongs to, we
followed the procedures outlined in Carmines, Ensley, and Wagner (2012b).1 The
data in Table 1 are the percentage of White citizens among each ideological type
that support/agree with the position. We focus on White respondents given the
1 A summary of the procedure is as follows. We identified survey questions that could be clas-
sified as economic/social-welfare issues and social/cultural issues in the 2008 ANES and per-
formed multiple imputation to account for any missing data on the issue survey questions. We
then performed a two-factor confirmatory factor analysis using the imputed data sets with the
issue questions as indicators for the two dimensions. Based on the factor scores from the con-
firmatory factor analyses on the imputed data sets, citizens were classified as one of the five
ideological types based on their location in the two-dimensional policy space. In all of these
analyses, we utilized the sample survey weights.
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390 Edward G. Carmines etal.
Trump’s appeal is almost exclusively to those citizens. Table 1 also includes the
ratio of Democratic to Republican Party identifiers.2
Table 1 illustrates that White populists are the most supportive of the issues
that we would associate with Trump’s candidacy; White populists are the most
likely to think that immigration takes jobs, to agree that government should dis-
courage outsourcing, and to favor the use of torture. And while Trump’s posi-
tions on these issues were attractive to populists, these citizens are the second
most pro-Democratic Party group (55 percent identify as Democratic but only 27
percent identify as Republicans). Further, White populists are the second most
likely ideological group to think that Blacks have too much influence on poli-
tics and thus may not be as bothered by Trump’s racially-oriented campaign (see
Schaffner 2016).
We conducted similar analyses using data from the primary election season
in 2016. To examine support for nationalist issues, we created a simple sum-
mated-rating scale using several issues questions in the 2016 ANES Pilot Study.
The “nationalist” issues we examined are (higher values are assumed to be more
1. Support for allowing Syrian refugees (opposition is higher)
2. Whether we should increase federal spending to fight crime (increase is
3. Concerns about a local terrorist attack (greater concern is higher)
4. Support using troops to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq (support is higher)
5. Support for death penalty in murderer convictions (support is higher)
6. Whether legal immigration is generally good or bad for the US (bad is higher)
7. Support for an increase in legal immigration (opposition is higher)
Each issue is weighted equally in creating the scale, which is constructed to range
between 0 and 1 with higher scores indicating greater support for nationalist
Table 1:White Americans’ Support for Nationalist Policies by Ideological Type, 2008.
Populists Libertarians Moderates Liberals Conservatives
Immigration takes jobs % % % % %
Discourage outsourcing % % % % %
Favor torture % % % % %
Blacks have too much influence % % % % %
Ratio of D to R identifiers / / / / /
Data are from 2008 ANES. Cell entries are sample-weighted percentages.
2 Respondents that indicated they “leaned” towards one party are classified as partisans.
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Ideological Heterogeneity and the Rise of Donald Trump391
policies. It is also worth noting that we used a slightly different approach to assign
ideological categories to survey respondents given the paltry number of social/
cultural issue questions (only equal pay for women, birth control, and support
for businesses denying service to same sex couples were available) in the pilot
study.3 We also used feeling-thermometer questions about feminists, transgen-
dered individuals, and homosexuals as indicators for the social issues scale.
Figure 1 shows that the highest level of support for nationalist policies in
2016 is among populists and conservatives. Liberals exhibit the lowest support
for nationalist policies.
Donald Trump’s Appeal to Populists in the 2016
Republican Primary
On the one hand, these results suggest that populists were a group custom-made
to respond to Trump’s candidacy. Unanchored in either major political party
Support for Nationalist policies
Figure 1:Support for Nationalist Policies in the 2016 Presidential Primaries.
Source: 2016 American National Election Study Pilot Study.
3 To locate respondents in the two-dimensional issue space, we handled missing data using
confirmatory factor analysis estimated via maximum likelihood with missing data in Stata 12, as
opposed to performing multiple imputation before the confirmatory factor analysis. This is the
approach used by Layman and Carsey (2002a,b). The choice of how to handle missing data does
not affect the results we present here.
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392 Edward G. Carmines etal.
(Carmines, Ensley, and Wagner 2012b), they are prime candidates for “flanking”
strategies aimed at picking up “off- diagonal” voters (Miller and Schofield 2003).
On the other hand, our previous work has shown that for the past half century,
populists have been a very small part of the Republican Party’s coalition.
Using Axelrod’s (1972) model, which calculates the contribution that differ-
ent groups make to a political party’s electoral coalition, we estimated the size
of each ideological group, as well as their propensity to turn out, their loyalty to
a party, and their contribution to a party’s coalition. The group’s contribution is
defined as the proportion of a party’s total votes provided by a given group and is
based on the three components of the group: its size, turnout, and loyalty. Simply,
a group’s contribution to the party’s coalition is greater if the group is large, its
turnout is high, and its vote is lopsided in favor of one party. While Axelrod’s
model initially was used to calculate the contribution of various demographic
groups to the Democratic and Republican electoral coalitions, it can readily be
applied to ideological groups. Table 2 shows that in 2012, populists were the
smallest ideological group in the electorate and contributed a mere 5 percent to
Mitt Romney’s coalition. Only liberals contributed less. Populists turned out less
than any other group and were the second least loyal (liberals were the least loyal
to the GOP) to the Republican Party. Table 3 shows that for Democrats, populists
were the second most loyal but only the fourth largest contribution to Barack
Obama’s coalition.
Taken together, these results suggest that populists are a relatively small
group that hold greater fealty for the Democratic Party than the Republican Party
(see Carmines, Ensley, and Wagner (2014) for similar evidence from 1972 to 1992).
It should not be surprising, then, that other GOP candidates did not make a stra-
tegic play for populists in the 2016 primaries.
Table 2:Size, Turnout, Loyalty, and Contribution to Republican Presidential Coalition, 2012.
Year Turnout Loyalty Size Contribution
 % % % %
 % % % %
 % % % %
 % % % %
 % % % %
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Ideological Heterogeneity and the Rise of Donald Trump393
However, in a field of more than a dozen candidates, each vying for the
support of what is largely the same slice of the electorate, a play for populists
begins to make more strategic sense. We also estimated the support among
Republican identifiers, by ideological group, for each Republican candidate
in the 2016 primaries. Perhaps not surprisingly, Republican populists were the
group most likely to express support for Donald Trump in the ANES pilot. Moder-
ates were the next highest Trump supporters. Notably, 30 percent of conservatives
preferred Trump in the primary election season, even in an abnormally large field
of conservative candidates.
Though our focus here has been primarily on populists, it is important to
keep in mind that Trump did well amongst conservatives and that conservatives
are by far the largest and most loyal group of Republican Party voters.
That said, we still wish to note that even after controlling for racial resent-
ment and partisanship, populists were significantly more likely to support Donald
Trump in the 2016 primaries. Figure 2 shows that probability that a populist in
the Republican primary supported Trump was 42 percent, which is 10 percentage
points higher than the next closest ideological group. Full regression results are
available from the authors.
What are we as political scientists to make of the mass appeal and electoral
success of Donald Trump? To be sure, he did not win the popular vote and takes
office with historically low approval ratings. But at the beginning of the primary
Table 3:Size, Turnout, Loyalty, and Contribution to Democratic Presidential Coalition, 2012.
Year Turnout Loyalty Size Contribution
 % % % %
 % % % %
 % % % %
 % % % %
 % % % %
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394 Edward G. Carmines etal.
season few analysts gave Trump much of a chance to win the GOP nomination
contest much less gain an Electoral College victory.
Trump’s support among Republican primary voters and probably in the
broader electorate, we suggest, only makes sense once we recognize that the
political choices offered by a conservative Republican Party and a liberal Demo-
cratic Party do not reflect the full extent of the ideological heterogeneity found in
the American public. While there are millions of voters holding mainly conserva-
tive or liberal issue orientations there is also a sizable segment of the electorate,
including self-identified Democrats, Republicans and Independents, whose issue
preferences are neither consistently liberal nor conservative. Instead, their het-
erodox combination of economic and social-welfare issue preferences and their
social and cultural preferences reflects a libertarian or populist ideological per-
spective. In other words, the marketplace of ideas found in the American public is
much more varied and heterogeneous than that offered by the two major parties
(Carmines, Ensley, and Wagner 2011, 2012a,b, 2014).
By strategic design or dumb luck, the Trump candidacy was able to activate a
segment of the electorate that has historically not been part of the GOP electoral
coalition. Compared to voters with liberal, conservative, moderate or libertarian
views, those citizens holding populist opinions are not only the smallest slice
of the electorate and the least likely to turnout, they have been notably disin-
clined to vote for Republican presidential candidates. But this may have changed
in 2016. At least during the primary season Trump with his nationalist policy
appeals was able to garner significant support among populist voters.
Likeihodd of Trump support
Figure 2:Republican Support for Donald Trump in the 2016 Primaries.
Source: 2016 American National Election Study Pilot Study.
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Ideological Heterogeneity and the Rise of Donald Trump395
We do not yet have evidence of voting behavior in the 2016 general election.
We do not know if populists increased their turnout, their loyalty to the Republi-
can Party, or their contribution to the Republican coalition. The evidence from the
2016 primary elections suggest that Trump’s message may have appealed to popu-
lists in a way that could have fundamentally altered the electorate in states where
White populists reside – states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. We
look forward to finding out.
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paigning.” Political Communication 33: 669–676.
Edward G. Carmines is Distinguished Professor, Warner O. Chapman Professor of Political
Science and Rudy Professor at Indiana University where he is also the Research Director at
the Center on Representative Government and Director of the Center on American Politics.
He has published more than 75 articles and chapters in edited books as well as a half dozen
books including Issue Evolution (with James A. Stimson) and Reaching Beyond Race (with
Paul M. Sniderman) both of which won the American Political Science Association’s Gladys M.
Kammerer Award for Best Book in the Field of US National Policy. He is a Fellow of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Michael J. Ensley is an Associate Professor of political science at Kent State University. His
research examines how candidates for and members of the US Congress respond to the compe-
ting demands of citizens, activists, interest groups and political parties. His work has appeared
in outlets such as American Journal of Political Science, Political Analysis, Public Choice, Ameri-
can Politics Research, and American Behavioral Scientist.
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Ideological Heterogeneity and the Rise of Donald Trump397
Michael W. Wagner is an Associate Professor and Louis A. Maier Faculty Development Fellow in
the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He
is affiliated with the Department of Political Science and the La Follette School of Public Affairs.
He has published work related to questions of political behavior and political communication in
journals such as Journal of Communication, Annual Review of Political Science, Journalism and
Communication Monographs, American Politics Research, Political Research Quarterly and is
editor of the “Forum” in Political Communication, not to be confused with this fine journal.
Download Date | 3/14/17 4:49 PM
... Jedinger and Burger (2019) found that economic protectionism-a part of traditional left-wing platforms-correlates positively with right wing authoritarianism (Altemeyer 1996), an individual difference that reflects cultural traditionalism and authoritarian intolerance. Carmines, Ensley, and Wagner (2016) found that Republicans with a protectionbased attitude package were the most likely to support Donald Trump during the 2016 primaries. More directly, Drutman, Diamond, and Goldman (2018) found in a 2017 U.S. sample that citizens who combined cultural conservatism with left economic attitudes scored relatively high on two items gauging openness to authoritarian governance. ...
... However, since the mid-1990s, there appears to have been a leftward shift in many-though certainly not all-populist radical right parties' economic rhetoric (Afonso and Rennwald 2018;Derks 2006;Fenger 2018;Lefkofridi and Michel 2017;Michel 2017). This might be understood as recognition that parts of the traditional center-left and center-right mass coalitions support economic intervention while holding nativist and traditional cultural views (Hillen and Steiner 2019;Van der Brug and Van Spanje 2009;Lefkofridi, Wagner, and Willmann 2014;Berman and Snegovaya 2019;Webb and Bale 2014;Gidron and Ziblatt 2019;Carmines, Ensley, and Wagner 2016;Oliver and Rahn 2016). One way of integrating this combination of stances is through "welfare chauvinism": reserving social welfare benefits and economic protection for the "real" members of the nation who are said to have suffered from elites who are more interested in directing their solicitude toward immigrants (Gidron 2016;Lefkofridi and Michel 2017;Schumacher and Van Kersbergen 2016). ...
Recent events have raised concern about potential threats to democracy within Western countries. If Western citizens who are open to authoritarian governance share a common set of political preferences, then authoritarian elites can attract mass coalitions that are willing to subvert democracy to achieve shared ideological goals. With this in mind, we explored which ideological groups are most open to authoritarian governance within Western general publics using World Values Survey data from fourteen Western democracies and three recent Latin American Public Opinion Project samples from Canada and the United States. Two key findings emerged. First, cultural conservatism was consistently associated with openness to authoritarian governance. Second, within half of the democracies studied, including all of the English-speaking ones, Western citizens holding a protection-based attitude package⸺combining cultural conservatism with left economic attitudes⸺were the most open to authoritarian governance. Within other countries, protection-based and consistently right-wing attitude packages were associated with similarly high levels of openness to authoritarian governance. We discuss implications for radical right populism and the possibility of splitting potentially undemocratic mass coalitions along economic lines.
... We see here all of the concerns Kornhauser suggests about populism in mass society: (1) masses who feel disconnected from institutions, (2) who are treated like a "market," merely picking between packaged products to signal their consumer choices by (3) elites who can communicate directly to those masses through their command of media, and (4) elites beholden to the will of the people (rather than, say, rational-legal institutional codes). In fact, Carmines, Ensley, and Wagner (2016) suggest that Trump's win happened because he held on to the bulk of Republican partisans while also appealing to populists, who have traditionally been more split between the parties. Elite discourse, they argue, tends to package specific policy and ideology bundles together into neat "Democratic" and "Republican" positions, but many average Americans have beliefs and values that don't conform fully to either party (see Baldassarri and Goldberg 2014). ...
The mid‐twentieth century “collective behavior” school asserted that (1) collective behavior—the actions of crowds, movements, and other gatherings—had distinct dynamics; (2) such action was often “nonrational,” or not governed by cost‐benefit calculation; and (3) collective behavior could pose a threat to liberal democracy because of these features. While this tradition fell out of scholarly favor, the 2016 election has given us empirical reasons to revisit some elements of collective behavior approaches. We argue for three key orienting concerns, drawn from this tradition, to understand the current political era. First is a focus on authoritarianism and populism, particularly among those who feel disaffected and isolated from political institutions, pared of psychologistic determinism and geared more sensitively to their manifestations as a political style. Second is a focus on racialized resentment, strain, and perceptions of status decline, especially in how such feelings are activated when people are confronted with disruptions to their lives. Third is an analysis of “emergent norms” and the extent to which political actors produce normative understandings of contextually appropriate action that are distinct from traditional political behavior. We elaborate on these themes, apply them to examples from current politics, and suggest ways to incorporate them into contemporary sociological research.
... How voters respond to factual disputes within parties is especially consequential at the state level, however, where many legislatures are dominated by a single party (Aistrup, 2015;Flavin & Shufeldt, 2016;Myers, 2016;Ranney, 1976;Shufeldt & Flavin, 2012). At the national level, such schisms may arise as coalitions shift to include new segments of the population (Carmines et al., 2016) or as candidate-centric identification becomes, in some cases, more prominent than party through contested primaries (Veenstra, Lyons, & Degim Flannagan, 2017). ...
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Journalists are often criticized for passive reporting of factual disputes in politics, but researchers have only recently begun exploring conditions in which they may successfully influence readers’ beliefs — scenarios less likely to produce partisan bias. Intra-party disputes and those which are polarized, but not contentious, may be two alignments of elite cues that vitiate motivated reasoning and allow for influential adjudication. This experiment (N = 523) used a 2 (one-sided adjudication/none) X 2 (intra-party/polarized dispute) design to test this hypothesis. In both cases, adjudication’s effects on factual beliefs were not conditional on ideological or partisan cues. Adjudication did not increase perceived bias, and increased satisfaction of readers’ informational needs.
Widespread COVID-19 vaccination is critical to slow the spread of the illness. This study investigates how political ideology is associated with COVID-19 vaccine intention via perceived effectiveness of the vaccine, perceived side effects, and perceived severity of the illness, three key aspects of the Health Belief Model (HBM). This study also examines how partisan information flow moderates the effects of ideology on these three HBM components. Using survey data collected from two battleground states in the 2020 election (N = 1849), regression, mediation and moderation analyses revealed that conservatives were less likely to intend to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and this association was significantly mediated by perceived effectiveness and perceived side effects of vaccination, as well as perceived severity of COVID-19. In addition, partisanship of news sources and discussion partners were significant moderators of ideology’s association with perceived vaccine effectiveness, with conservatives viewing COVID-19 vaccination as less effective if they were frequently exposed to liberal news, and if they had frequent conversations with fellow conservatives. This suggests boomerang effects for cross-cutting mass media exposure, and reinforcement effect for interpersonal communication. Implications for efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccine uptake are discussed, including tailored and targeted campaign strategies.
Scholars have identified many social-psychological factors correlated with support for Donald Trump; however, attempts at modeling these factors tend to suffer from omitted variable bias on the one hand, or multicollinearity on the other. Both issues obscure inferences. Using two nationally representative surveys, we demonstrate the perils of including or failing to include many of these factors in models of Trump support. We then reconceptualize the social-psychological sources of Trump support as components of a broader “profile” of factors that explains Trump support in 2018 and vote choice in 2016, as well as attitudes about issues connected to Trump. Moreover, this profile—an amalgamation of attitudes about, for example, racial groups, immigrants, and political correctness—rivals partisanship and ideology as predictors of Trump support and is negatively related to support for mainstream Republican candidates. Our analyses suggest that Trump benefited from activating dimensions of public opinion that transcend traditional party cleavages.
Objective Survey questions regarding immigration have been frequently used to compare how mass publics think about nativism, but it remains unclear whether the resulting nativism measures are comparable across countries. In this article, we empirically examine whether nativism achieves scalar invariance—an important measurement feature for valid instrumentation—across very different country contexts. Method We examine measurement invariance of a nativism scale using survey data from 22 countries representing 16,096 individual respondents. To test for invariance, we utilize multigroup confirmatory factor analysis (MG‐CFA). Results While the nativism scale fails to achieve full scalar invariance, we are able to establish partial scalar invariance, indicating the nativism scale is valid across many national contexts. Though highly correlated, the means of the latent nativist variable also provide different rankings than the means of an additive scale. Conclusions With a few limitations, nativist sentiments can be meaningfully measured across political contexts. Across 19 of the 22 countries, respondents answered survey items on nativism in ways that suggest their answers reflect the same underlying latent construct.
Scholars have long debated the individual-level relationship between partisanship and policy preferences. We argue that partisanship and issue attitudes cause changes in each other, but the pattern of influence varies systematically. Issue-based change in party identification should occur among individuals who are aware of party differences on an issue and find that issue to be salient. Individuals who are aware of party differences, but do not attach importance to the issue, should evidence party-based issue change. Those lacking awareness of party differences on an issue should show neither effect. We test our account by examining individuals' party identifications and their attitudes on abortion, government spending and provision of services, and government help for African Americans using the 1992-94-96 National Election Study panel study, finding strong support for our argument. We discuss the implications of our findings both for the microlevel study of party identification and the macrolevel analysis of partisan change.
In this paper, we contend that party realignments occur due to the interaction of candidates and activists. We examine independent party candidates who are motivated primarily to win elections but who use activist contributions to increase vote shares. In a two-dimensional policy space, such candidates will on occasion engage in "flanking" moves so as to enlist coalitions of disaffected voters, at the risk of alienating some of their traditional activist supporters. We argue that a result of such "flanking" moves, in the early part of the century, has been a shift in emphasis from an underlying social dimension to the economic dimension. In recent decades, electoral salience has shifted back to the social dimension. The net result is that the party cleavage line is much as it was a century ago-but the parties have switched sides.
What is the real nature of substantive conflict in mass politics during the postwar years in the United States? How is it reflected in the American public mind? And how does this issue structure shape electoral conflict? William J. M. Claggett and Byron E. Shafer answer by developing measures of public preference in four great policy realms – social welfare, international relations, civil rights, and cultural values – for the entire period between 1952 and 2004. They use these to identify the issues that were moving the voting public at various points in time, while revealing the way in which public preferences shaped the structure of electoral politics. What results is the restoration of policy substance to the center of mass politics in the United States.
Political Ideologies and Political Parties in America puts ideology front and center in the discussion of party coalition change. Treating ideology as neither a nuisance nor a given, the analysis describes the development of the modern liberal and conservative ideologies that form the basis of our modern political parties. Hans Noel shows that liberalism and conservatism emerged as important forces independent of existing political parties. These ideologies then reshaped parties in their own image. Modern polarization can thus be explained as the natural outcome of living in a period, perhaps the first in our history, in which two dominant ideologies have captured the two dominant political parties.
Although politics at the elite level has been polarized for some time, a scholarly controversy has raged over whether ordinary Americans are polarized. This book argues that they are and that the reason is growing polarization of worldviews – what guides people's view of right and wrong and good and evil. These differences in worldview are rooted in what Marc J. Hetherington and Jonathan D. Weiler describe as authoritarianism. They show that differences of opinion concerning the most provocative issues on the contemporary issue agenda – about race, gay marriage, illegal immigration, and the use of force to resolve security problems – reflect differences in individuals’ levels of authoritarianism. This makes authoritarianism an especially compelling explanation of contemporary American politics. Events and strategic political decisions have conspired to make all these considerations more salient. The authors demonstrate that the left and the right have coalesced around these opposing worldviews, which has provided politics with more incandescent hues than before.
Paul M. Kellstedt explains the variation in Americans’ racial attitudes over the last half-century, particularly the relationship between media coverage of race and American public opinion on race. The analyses reveal that racial policy preferences have evolved in an interesting and unpredicted (if not unpredictable) fashion over the past fifty years. There have been sustained periods of liberalism, where the public prefers an active government to bring about racial equality, and these periods are invariably followed by eras of conservatism, where the public wants the government to stay out of racial politics altogether. These opinions respond to cues presented in the national media. Kellstedt then examines the relationship between attitudes on the two major issues of the twentieth century: race and the welfare state.
This paper analyzes variation in presidential outcomes across the American states from 1972 through 2012. The findings show that differences in cultural policy preferences across the states are more important than economic preferences for explaining state outcomes in 2012. This result fits a long-term trend of the growing importance of cultural issues - absolutely and relative to economic issues - for sorting the states, which has had the effect of rotating the" party cleavage" line that divides the Democratic and Republican parties in presidential elections.