By: Emily Peck
January 15, 2021
The perception that “pocketbook” issues motivated Trump voters likely comes from the fact that Americans with less education did tend to vote for him in 2016 and 2020, she said. But their motivating factor wasn’t about, say, the rising cost of health insurance. Lower education also correlates with what she calls “group animosity,” fear of the other.
The 2020 election offered another forceful debunking of the myth of the impoverished Trump voter. The majority of Americans making less than $50,000 a year voted for Democrat Joe Biden, according to exit poll data from December. Those earning more than $100,000 leaned toward Trump.
A majority of white voters chose Trump.
Perhaps bafflingly, these voters said the economy was their top issue. That’s partly because most Americans won’t tell you that they voted for someone because they’re worried that white people are losing their place in the country.
“No one is going to tell a pollster they voted for racism or that they would characterize it that way,” Angela Hanks, the deputy executive director at Groundwork Collaborative, a progressive economic group, told HuffPost in November for a story exploring how Trump voters claim the economy was their priority – at a time when it was clear that the economy was tanking because of the out-of-control pandemic.
It’s also because economic anxiety is inexorably tied with racial anxiety, said William Darity Jr., an economist at Duke University who studies the interplay between the two.
It’s not that Trump rioters have actually fallen behind economically; it’s that they’re worried about the prospect of Black folks doing better. It’s the same kind of anxiety that fueled the backlash to affirmative action decades ago.
“This is a group of people who perceive their relative status is endangered,” Darity said. He and others have pointed out that this is hardly new: White Americans rioted during Reconstruction, outraged over the idea that Black people were not slaves anymore and actually had some rights. That violence ushered in nearly a century of repression.