Don’t sneer at white rural voters — or delude yourself about their politics

“Trump is the fundamental threat to American democracy today. All political violence is lamentable, but individual militants cannot undermine the independence of federal law enforcement, the integrity of the electoral process, or the peaceful transfer of power; an insurrectionary president plausibly can.
And there is no question that white voters from low-density areas support Trump by much larger margins than their counterparts in high-density places.

In the 2020 election, rural white voters backed Trump over Biden by 42 points, while suburban white voters favored him by just 7, according to the Democratic data firm Catalist. Urban white voters, meanwhile, supported Biden over Trump by a 32-point margin.

If rural white Americans voted the same way that suburban white Americans do, then Trump would never have been elected president and his brand of authoritarianism would not be competitive in national elections. If all white Americans voted like those who live in cities, meanwhile, then Trump’s party would have negligible influence over the federal government.

What’s more, Harper acknowledges that rural white Americans are “overrepresented” among those who support restoring Trump to power by force.

Given these facts, it’s silly to argue that urban and suburban white people are doing more to imperil American democracy than their rural counterparts. Harper’s only real counter is that more supporters of January 6 live in cities than in rural areas. But this is a trivial point: Roughly 80 percent of Americans live in non-rural areas. Name any ideological group under the sun and you’re almost certain to find that a majority of that group lives in high-population municipalities, rather than in places that, by definition, have few people.”

“All this said, rural white voters are not a monolith. In fact, such voters were an indispensable part of Biden’s 2020 coalition.

Yes, the president won only 28 percent of that voting bloc, but that adds up to more than 9 million votes. In 2020, Biden won nationally by roughly 7 million ballots and took many swing states by tiny margins. Subtract all rural white Democrats from Biden’s column and Trump almost certainly would have won reelection.”

Could Arab American and Muslim voters cost Biden the 2024 election?

“According to the Arab American Institute, only a quarter of Arab Americans practice Islam; a supermajority of them are actually Christian. Similarly, many Muslim Americans are South Asian, Black or some other non-Arab ethnicity (e.g., Iranian).”

“According to a poll from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Muslims voted for Biden over Trump in 2020 69 percent to 17 percent (3 percent voted for a third-party candidate, and 11 percent refused to answer). And according to AP VoteCast, Muslims voted for Biden 64 percent to 35 percent. (The disagreement over Trump’s vote share really underscores how hard it is to survey such a small group!)
Meanwhile, Arab Americans told Zogby Analytics and the Arab American Institute in an October 2020 poll that they were planning to vote for Biden over Trump, 59 percent to 35 percent. Arab Americans who identified as Muslim in that poll supported Biden by a slightly wider margin, 60 percent to 30 percent. (Biden led more narrowly among Christian Arab Americans.)”

” There just aren’t a lot of Arab American and Muslim voters out there. The U.S. is only 0.7 percent Arab American and 1.3 percent Muslim. And most swing states don’t have significant Arab American or Muslim populations; even in Michigan, which has the largest such populations, they each make up less than 3 percent. And while the 100,000 “uncommitted” votes on Tuesday sounds like an impressive number, it is over 50,000 shy of Biden’s 2020 margin in the state (154,181 votes).

Muslim or Arab American voters could still tip the scales in Michigan … but only if the state is very close.”

Record Low Turnout in Iran as Voters Lose Faith in Elections

“Iranians went to the polls…—or didn’t—for the first time since a women-led uprising against religious rule rocked the nation. Authorities reported a record-low turnout of 27 percent, even after they extended voting for an additional two hours, amidst widespread disillusionment and calls for an election boycott.
The country had suffered months of unrest following the death of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for not complying with the country’s mandatory hijab rule in September 2022. Although the streets have calmed down, it was the most significant challenge to the Islamic Republic yet.”

“Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has had a mix of democratic and theocratic institutions. Election turnout has rarely fallen below 50 percent and has sometimes reached as high as 70 percent. Iranian “leaders crave constantly high turnout as evidence of the people’s love of the revolution, but…loathe the results that high turnout always brings,” in the words of political scientist Shervin Malekzadeh.

Over the past few years, the government has dropped the pretense of caring. During protests in November 2019, authorities launched a crackdown that killed hundreds of people, then banned thousands of candidates from the February 2020 parliamentary election. A record low 42 percent of voters turned out that year, a result that the Iranian government blamed on coronavirus and “negative propaganda.”

Even Hassan Rouhani, who was President of Iran during the November 2019 crackdown, has been banned from running for office. He joins a long list of elected Iranian leaders who have outlived their usefulness to the system, including former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was in office during the 2009 protest wave and crackdown.

Ahmadinejad and Rouhani have both refashioned themselves as dissidents.”

What we’re getting wrong about 2024’s “moderate” voters

“A final chunk of Americans are a rare breed in America’s political parties. They don’t fit neatly on the ideological spectrum; on the partisan spectrum, they tend to lie outside the political parties. Some academics, like Fowler and his team, call them “idiosyncratic” moderates, but I think “weird” is simpler since it describes just how difficult they are to read.
Unlike disengaged moderates, weird moderates are engaged — aware of political news, policies, and debates — but like disengaged moderates, they hold a mix of opinions. They aren’t really drawing those positions from the ideological extremes, so they tend toward moderation on a variety of issues. Because of the weird mix of ideas they have, they might not feel represented by either party or by a specific conservative or liberal ideology. They also include your classic “socially liberal but fiscally conservative” types who might have been more predominant in the Democratic and Republican parties of less polarized times. They’re not consistently liberal or conservative on all topics and therefore are open to persuasion. They hold the opinions they do have strongly, unlike the true moderate, but feel overlapping pressures when making a decision in the voting booth.”

“The imperative to persuade true and weird moderates runs counter to the trend of America’s political parties, which have been moving further to the political left and right while also becoming more ideologically consistent internally — pushing out moderates of all kinds. Party leaders have been leading this push, but the rank and file has followed suit in the last two decades, as rates of self-identified moderates have been on the decline in both parties.”

What issues will matter most to Hispanic voters in 2024?

“a 538 analysis of data from the Cooperative Election Study, a Harvard University survey of at least 60,000 Americans taken before the 2020 elections and the 2022 midterms, shows that Hispanic voters remain to the left of the general electorate on key issues like immigration and environmental policy. In other areas, Hispanic voters are largely similar to the general electorate.”

Most Republican Voters Aren’t Loyal Trumpists, Suggests Survey

“The poll, conducted by the Times and Siena College, found that “majorities of Republicans side with Mr. Trump on almost every issue” but “those majorities are often quite slim.”
To tease out more who makes up the modern conservative electorate, the Times divided Republican and Republican-leaning voters into six categories, defined by their feelings about the former and would-be-future president as well as their policy positions:

The Moderate Establishment (14%). Highly educated, affluent, socially moderate or even liberal and often outright Never Trump.

The Traditional Conservatives (26%). Old-fashioned economic and social conservatives who oppose abortion and prefer corporate tax cuts to new tariffs. They don’t love Mr. Trump, but they do support him.

The Right Wing (26%). They watch Fox News and Newsmax. They’re “very conservative.” They’re disproportionately evangelical. They believe America is on the brink of catastrophe. And they love Mr. Trump more than any other group.

The Blue Collar Populists (12%). They’re mostly Northern, socially moderate, economic populists who hold deeply conservative views on race and immigration. Not only do they back Mr. Trump, but he himself probably counted as one a decade ago.

The Libertarian Conservatives (14%). These disproportionately Western and Midwestern conservatives value small government. They’re relatively socially moderate and isolationist, and they’re on the lower end of Trump support compared with other groups.

The Newcomers (8%). They don’t look like Republicans. They’re young, diverse and moderate. But these disaffected voters like Democrats and the “woke” left even less.”

The “right wing” and the “blue collar populists”—which make up a combined 37 percent—are loyal Trump supporters. The others in the coalition have more mixed or even negative views of Trump.”

I regret to report the economic anxiety theory of Trumpism is back

“the best evidence typically points toward identity-based explanations: Racial and cultural conflicts are far, far more important than the kind of economic alienation Brooks wants to highlight. This is true not only in the United States but in other countries facing similar challenges from far-right populist movements — important comparison points that Brooks entirely leaves out.
Brooks’s column makes some important points, particularly about the flaws in the American economic model. But it’s one thing to point out those flaws, and another thing to posit that (as a matter of fact) they are behind the great divides in our politics — when in fact they are not.”

“A 2022 paper by two political scientists, Kristin Lunz Trujillo and Zack Crowley, examined this theory explicitly: testing a sense of political and cultural alienation (what they call “symbolic” concerns) versus a sense of economic deprivation in predicting rural voter support for Trump.

They found that “only the symbolic subdimensions of rural consciousness positively and significantly correlate with Trump support.” If anything, they found, rural voters who feel more economically deprived are less likely to vote for Trump than their peers.

Similarly, a 2020 paper found that Trump supporters in poorer areas tend to be the “locally affluent whites:” people whose incomes might not put them in the national one percent, but who are doing a fair sight better than others in the same zip code. Think plumbers and auto dealers, not laid-off factory workers.”

“Let me propose an alternative theory — one that aligns much better with the available evidence than the economic anxiety idea.

This story starts with the late 20th-century revolution in social values: the end of segregation, mass nonwhite immigration, feminist challenges to patriarchy, a decline in traditional Christianity, and the rise of the LGBTQ movement. This revolution has transformed America at fundamental levels: the kinds of people who hold positions of power, the ideas that command cultural respect, and even the kinds of food Americans eat and languages they speak in public.

For millions of Americans, these changes made them feel unmoored from their country— “strangers in their own land,” as the sociologist Arlie Hochschild put it. Whether because of pure bigotry or a more diffuse sense of cultural alienation from the mainstream, a large number of Americans came to believe that they are losing America. For historical reasons owing largely to the legacy of the civil rights movement, these voters became concentrated in the Republican party — forming at least a plurality of its primary electorate. The election of Barack Obama, a self-described “Black man with a funny name,” pushed their sense of social alienation to the breaking point.

This cultural anxiety created room for Trump, who rode this group’s collective resentments to control of the Republican party. It is not the only reason he won the presidency — in a close election like 2016, a million different things likely made the difference — but it is the most important reason why he has maintained a lock on the Republican party for the better part of a decade.

We know this, primarily, because social scientists have been testing the theory since 2016 — and comparing it with Brooks’s preferred explanations rooted in resentment at a rigged economic game. Again and again, the cultural theory has won out.”

“in 2018, a trio of scholars used survey data to compare explanations of Trump support based on racism, sexism, and a sense of economic alienation. The former two are far more powerful predictors than the latter, almost entirely explaining Trump’s surge in support among white non-college voters. “Controlling for racism and sexism effectively restores the education gap among whites to what it had been in every election since 2000,” they write.

A 2018 report from the Voter Study Group, authored by pollster Robert Griffin and political scientist John Sides, tested what they called the “prevailing narrative” of the 2016 election that “focused heavily on the economic concerns of [the white working class].” They found that typical methods of measuring economic distress were flawed and that more precise measurements show little effect on the 2016 outcome. “Instead,” they write, “attitudes about race and ethnicity were more strongly related to how people voted.”

A 2018 paper by Alan Abramowitz and Jennifer McCoy, two leading political scientists, tested correlations between white voters’ favorable views of Hillary Clinton and Trump and a battery of different variables. What they found, at this point, shouldn’t surprise you.

“After party identification, racial/ethnic resentment was by far the strongest predictor of relative ratings of Trump and Clinton — the higher the score on the racial/ethnic resentment scale, the more favorably white voters rated Trump relative to Clinton,” they write. “The impact of the racial/ethnic resentment scale was much stronger than that of any of the economic variables included in the analysis, including opinions about free trade deals and economic mobility.”

These are three studies from a single year. There are dozens of other papers, reports, and even entire books coming to similar conclusions. These studies don’t explain everything about Trump or Republican support — such as the party’s recent gains among Black and especially Latino voters — but they do an excellent job answering the question that Brooks poses in his column: Why does Trump maintain such a hard core of support despite everything that he’s done?”

‘This Is a Really Big Deal’: How College Towns Are Decimating the GOP

“In state after state, fast-growing, traditionally liberal college counties like Dane are flexing their muscles, generating higher turnout and ever greater Democratic margins. They’ve already played a pivotal role in turning several red states blue — and they could play an equally