White Americans who strongly identify with their ethnicity are likely to support Republican candidate Donald Trump in the upcoming US presidential election, as they feel threatened by the increasing ethnic and racial diversification in the country, a new study has found.
The study by psychologist Brenda Major from the University of California, Santa Barbara in the US, suggests not all Americans value their country’s multicultural ethos.
“Many whites are feeling very threatened by the increasing ethnic and racial diversification of America,” said Major.
“Donald Trump understands that, feels their same angst and plays to it. The threat of diversity among white Americans who highly identify with their ethnicity is playing a key role in shaping this year’s presidential contest,” she said.
Major designed an experiment to demonstrate how the changing racial demographics of America are contributing to Trump’s likey success as a presidential candidate among whites in the November 8 polls.
Previous studies have shown that reminding white Americans about increasing racial diversification of the country makes them identify as more politically conservative.
However, none of those studies had considered whether the degree to which the participants identified with their white ethnicity made a difference.
In March, 594 white US residents participated in the study. They were asked to read one of two randomly assigned press releases.
The first indicated that racial minorities would outnumber whites in the US in about 25 years; the other used similar language to explain that geographic mobility is increasing.
Participants then answered questions about perceived threats to the status of their group, their support for the Republican and Democratic primary candidates, anti-immigration attitudes, support for anti-bias norms in speech (“political correctness”) and how important their ethnicity was to them.
An analysis of their answers showed white Americans whose ethnic identity was important to their self-concept became more supportive of Trump after reading the article about increasing racial diversity versus the article about geographical mobility. This was true regardless of political party affiliation.
“If you are white and are highly identified with your ethnicity, reminding you of increasing diversity moves you toward Trump, turns you against anti-bias norms and makes you endorse anti-immigrant policies more, whether you are Democrat or Republican,” Major said.
This happens because reminding highly identified white Americans of increasing racial diversity caused them to become more concerned about the declining status and influence of their group. This threat to group status, in turn, led to more pro-Trump and anti-immigrant attitudes.
The study appears in the journal Group Processes and Intergroup Relations.