Where White Identity Activation Benefits Trump Most

While white identity has been established as a strong predictor of support of Donald Trump in this election, its prominence has begun to appear in distinctive parts of the country. In particular, this New York Times piece pointed to an initially counterintuitive development of Trump garnering less support in states that are more white in their population makeup. The author concludes that “an appeal to white identity tends to work better in areas where that identity is felt to be under threat.”

With this interesting idea in mind about where white identity may become central to vote choice, I try to test it. Below is a plot of the percentage of the white population in a state and the percent of the vote Trump won in the state. While not especially so, a somewhat strong relationship results in the negative direction: a correlation coefficient of -0.48. As the white share of the state population increases, Trump’s share of the vote decreases. In other words, a larger non-white presence in the state makes for higher support for Trump, which squares with the theory proposed above.

white percent trump vote
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, New York Times.

This also excludes an outlier case of Hawaii in terms of where it appeared on the plot (and how much disproportionately more weight would be given to such as small state), but the exclusion changed the coefficient very little.

Several embodiments of this trend come from the South. States such as Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama have offered some of the highest levels of voting support to Trump, but have some of the smallest white populations of the states that have already voted. Among the 10 southern states that have held elections thus far, a stronger correlation between percent white and Trump vote–of -0.59–emerges.

At the same time, he’s performed relatively worse in states with some of the largest numbers of whites, such as Iowa, Minnesota, Vermont, Maine, Kansas, Idaho.

The other factor mentioned in the NYT piece that further accentuates white identity among white voters is specifically the size of the black population part of the non-white one. After all, this finding of white identity influence relates heavily to antipathy and hostility towards blacks.

black percent trump vote

Above I plot the percentage of the black population in states that have held elections and the share of the vote Trump received in them. Once again, a fairly strong correlation between the two variables arises, nearly as strong as the previous one at 0.45 (in terms of its absolute value).

Though certainly not a very powerful indicator (as much as education level would likely be in the Republican race), where white identity gets activated does account for and explain some of Trump’s support during this primary process. Even just visually comparing the below maps that geographically represent where the white population concentrates, where the black population does, and where Trump has fared best, respectively, would return the same result: the more that a non-white population resides in a state–especially African-Americans–the more likely it will vote in greater numbers for Trump.

white population
Source: U.S. Census Bureau; white alone 2014 estimates.
black population
Source: U.S. Census Bureau; black/African-American alone 2014 estimates.
trump share of vote by county 3-12
Source: New York Times; margin of victory by county (Trump in red).
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Where White Identity Activation Benefits Trump Most

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