Tuesday, May 9, 2017

It Was Cultural Anxiety That Drove White, Working-Class Voters to Trump

A new study finds that fear of societal change, not economic pressure, motivated votes for the president among non-salaried workers without college degrees.

President Trump and Vice President Pence meet with workers at the Carrier factory in Indiana Evan Vucci / AP

White Americans carried Donald Trump to the White House. He won college-educated white voters by a four-point margin over Hillary Clinton, according to exit polls. But his real victory was among members of the white working class: Twice as many of these voters cast their ballots for the president as for Clinton.

In the wake of Trump's surprise win, some journalists, scholars, and political strategists argued that economic anxiety drove these Americans to Trump. But new analysis of post-election survey data conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic found something different: Evidence suggests financially troubled voters in the white working class were more likely to prefer Clinton over Trump. Besides partisan affiliation, it was cultural anxiety—feeling like a stranger in America, supporting the deportation of immigrants, and hesitating about educational investment—that best predicted support for Trump.

This data adds to the public's mosaic-like understanding of the 2016 election. It suggests Trump's most powerful message, at least among some Americans, was about defending the country's putative culture. Because this message seems to have resonated so deeply with voters, Trump's policies, speeches, and eventual reelection may depend on their perception of how well he fulfills it.

In September and October 2016, PRRI and The Atlantic surveyed American voters about how they were feeling about politics. Researchers specifically focused on white, working-class voters—people without college degrees or salaried jobs. This group accounts for one-third of American adults. They make up a bigger share of the population in the Midwest than they do in any other region, and more than half of rural Americans are part of the white working class.

As it turned out, this would become one of the most decisive groups of voters in the election. In November, researchers returned to this group to see how its members had voted and get a sense of why. They found that 64 percent of these voters had chosen Trump, while only 32 percent chose Clinton. While white, non-college-educated voters tend to prefer Republicans, Trump won them by a larger margin than any presidential candidate since 1980, according to the Pew Research Center.
Partisan identification strongly predicted how white, working-class people would vote. Self-described Republicans were 11 times more likely than their non-Republican peers to choose Trump.

Researchers found that partisanship is most pronounced among the young: Among white working-class Americans under 30, 57 percent identified as Republican or Republican-leaning, compared to 29 percent who identified as Democratic or Democratic-leaning. By comparison, only slightly more than half of seniors 65 and over were Republicans or Republican-leaning, compared to over one-third who were Democrats or Democratic-leaning.

It may not be surprising that Republicans vote Republican. But the analysis also isolated a handful of other factors that drove white working-class voters—ones that defy post-election tropes.

Controlling for other demographic variables, three factors stood out as strong independent predictors of how white working-class people would vote. The first was anxiety about cultural change. Sixty-eight percent of white working-class voters said the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence. And nearly half agreed with the statement, "things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country." Together, these variables were strong indictors of support for Trump: 79 percent of white working-class voters who had these anxieties chose Trump, while only 43 percent of white working-class voters who did not share one or both of these fears cast their vote the same way.

The second factor was immigration. Contrary to popular narratives, only a small portion—just 27 percent—of white working-class voters said they favor a policy of identifying and deporting immigrants who are in the country illegally. Among the people who did share this belief, Trump was wildly popular: 87 percent of them supported the president in the 2016 election.

Nearly two-thirds of the white working class say American culture has gotten worse since the 1950s.
Finally, 54 percent of white working-class Americans said investing in college education is a risky gamble, including 61 percent of white working-class men. White working-class voters who held this belief were almost twice as likely as their peers to support Trump. "The enduring narrative of the American dream is that if you study and get a college education and work hard, you can get ahead," said Robert P. Jones, the CEO of PRRI. "The survey shows that many white working-class Americans, especially men, no longer see that path available to them. … It is this sense of economic fatalism, more than just economic hardship, that was the decisive factor in support for Trump among white working-class voters."

While the analysis pointed to some interesting patterns around economic status, more research is needed to confirm them. The findings contrast with much of the coverage of the election: People who said their finances are only in fair or poor shape were nearly twice as likely to support Clinton compared to those who feel more economically secure.

Although demographic factors like gender, age, geographic region, and religion weren't statistically significant predictors of who voted for Trump, some of the other information gathered in the survey offers a portrait of how white working-class Americans feel about their status in the world. Nearly two-thirds of the white working class say American culture has gotten worse since the 1950s. Sixty-eight percent say the U.S. is in danger of losing its identity, and 62 percent say America's growing number of immigrants threaten the country's culture. More than half say discrimination against whites has become just as problematic as discrimination against minorities.

This analysis provides only a surface look at the concerns and anxieties of America's white working class. Polling is a notoriously clumsy instrument for understanding people's lives, and provides only a sketch of who they are. But it's useful for debunking myths and narratives—particularly the ubiquitous idea that economic anxiety drove white working-class voters to support Trump. When these voters hear messages from their president, they're listening with ears attuned to cultural change and anxiety about America's multicultural future. It would be a mistake to use this insight to create yet another caricature of the Trump voter. But perhaps it will complicate the stereotypes about destitute factory landscapes and poor folks who had nowhere to turn but right.

About the Author

  • Emma Green is a staff writer at ​The Atlantic, where she covers politics, policy, and religion.

Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.

Why the Macron Hacking Attack Landed With a Thud in France

Police officers near a newsstand on the Champs-Élysées on Monday. So far, the French news media has avoided reporting details of the hacking attack on Emmanuel Macron's campaign. Credit Eric Gaillard/Reuters

PARIS — Maybe it was the suspect timing of the leaked documents. Or the staggering amount and possibility that some were fake. Or a feeling among the French that, having witnessed how hacking may have altered the American election, they would not fall for the same ploy.

Whatever the reasons, newspapers and broadcasters in France have so far conspicuously avoided reporting any details of what was described on Friday night as a "massive" pre-election hacking attack on Emmanuel Macron's campaign.

The bereft coverage extended into Monday night, well after a 44-hour legal ban on election reporting surrounding the Sunday vote had lifted.

By then it was clear that the hacked material — regardless of what it might contain — had caused no ill effects on the campaign of Mr. Macron, who won decisively over the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

The contrast with the United States presidential campaign was sharp: Hacking of Hillary Clinton that was traced to Russia may have played a role in her defeat by Donald J. Trump, but news of the hacking in France was met with silence, disdain and scorn.

The contrast may have been amplified further by the absence of a French equivalent to the thriving tabloid culture in Britain or the robust right-wing broadcast media in the United States, where the Clinton hacking attack generated enormous negative coverage.

"We don't have a Fox News in France," said Johan Hufnagel, managing editor of the leftist daily Libération. "There's no broadcaster with a wide audience and personalities who build this up and try to use it for their own agendas."

He also said that French voters, with the benefit of hindsight, were suspicious of destabilizing developments like the ones that may have affected the vote in the American presidential election and Britain's so-called Brexit referendum last June to leave the European Union.

"French voters didn't want to get into that game," Mr. Hufnagel said. "They were mentally prepared after Trump and Brexit and the Russians, even if it's not clear they're behind it."

Some Macron supporters initially feared that the reports of the hacking and his inability to respond could be devastating on the eve of voting.

The hacking lit up social media, especially in the United States, where far-right activists have joined together to spread extremist messages in Europe.

On Election Day, the French-language version of Sputnik, the Russian news outlet, played up social media coverage of the leaks.

But the leaks did not get much traction in France, where news outlets respected the blackout. The documents landed at the 11th hour, without time for journalists to scrutinize them before the ban went into effect.

The news media also heeded an admonition by the government's campaign regulatory body not to publish false news. Mr. Macron's campaign said that fake documents had been mixed in with authentic ones.

There were also reports that Mr. Macron's campaign, well aware that it was a hacking target, had deliberately fed hackers false information in responding to phishing emails, which may explain why the leaked data was disseminated late in the campaign.

"You can flood these addresses with multiple passwords and logins, true ones, false ones, so the people behind them use up a lot of time trying to figure them out," The Daily Beast quoted Mounir Mahjoubi, the head of Mr. Macron's digital team, as saying.

The Interpreter Newsletter

Understand the world with sharp insight and commentary on the major news stories of the week.
Receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times's products and services.
Mr. Hufnagel said that Libération would take time to evaluate and verify the leaked documents before writing any articles.

Le Monde, the country's leading daily, said in an article published Saturday that it would also scrutinize the leaked material before writing.

"If those documents contain revelations, Le Monde, of course, will publish them, after having investigated in accordance with our journalistic and ethical rules, without letting ourselves be manipulated by the publishing agenda of anonymous actors," the newspaper said.

After that blackout ended Sunday night, most news outlets said only that the French authorities had opened an investigation.

That reticence stretched across the landscape of newspapers in France, regardless of political leaning. Several weekly newsmagazines — the conservative Le Point, the centrist L'Express and the left-leaning L'Obs — also held back.

The Macron campaign has said little about the hacking and leaks beyond a statement late Friday night — just minutes before the blackout began — describing the operation as "massive and coordinated" and an effort to destabilize French democracy.

For now, it appears the attack turned up mostly mundane documents. Although the coverage has hardly been comprehensive, no real smoking guns have been uncovered.

"The good news is that there was an attempt at destabilization that didn't work," said Céline Pigalle, the top editor at BFM-TV, a private broadcaster. "The elements weren't strong enough. But what would have happened if they had been?"

Ms. Pigalle said the late-breaking document dump provided a reason to revise the news blackout law. It was created to give citizens time to reflect before voting, but in the era of social media, it gives anyone with a Twitter account an edge over France's respected news outlets.

"It denies the world as it exists today, when social media don't stop," she said.

The National Front, Ms. Le Pen's party, has a vexed relationship with the mainstream news media, which it has at once scorned and used.

Ms. Le Pen and her aides have at times floated conspiracy theories, asserting — without evidence — that Mr. Macron had an offshore bank account, for instance. But her campaign did not have enough time after news of the hacking attack became public to seize on any damaging findings.
Just before the campaign blackout deadline, a senior National Front official, Florian Philippot, said on Twitter: "Will Macron leaks teach us things that investigative journalism deliberately killed? It's shocking, this shipwreck of democracy."

But his message came across as a last-minute act of desperation. On a popular morning radio show on France Inter on Monday, the journalist Léa Salamé asked a National Front official, Nicolas Bay, about Mr. Philippot's post on Twitter. Mr. Bay said that the methods used to disseminate the Macron campaign documents might be questionable, but that it was important to discover their contents. The conversation ended there.

The National Front does not have the equivalent of a Bill O'Reilly or a Sean Hannity, the right-wing commentators who helped shore up Mr. Trump's presidential bid. While French commentators such as Éric Zemmour, a regular on radio and television who has a column in Le Figaro, have fed into a sense of decline and insecurity that the National Front tried to capitalize on politically, neither he nor other so-called neo-reactionary commentators endorsed the far-right party.

In the United States, reaction to the Macron leaks was more animated, and Hillary Clinton took to Twitter to comment. "Victory for Macron, for France, the EU, & the world. Defeat to those interfering w/democracy. (But the media says I can't talk about that)."
Follow Rachel Donadio on Twitter @RachelDonadio.

Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.

George Will column: This president does not know what it is to know

President Donald Trump had a portrait of former President Andrew Jackson installed in the Oval Office within the first few days of his administration.

President Trump says Frederick Douglass is someone who has done an 'amazing job'

WASHINGTON — It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about Donald Trump's inability to do either. This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence.

In February, acknowledging Black History Month, Trump said that "Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who's done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice." Because Trump is syntactically challenged, it was possible and tempting to see this not as a historical howler about a man who died 122 years ago, but as just another of Trump's verbal fender benders, this one involving verb tenses.

Now, however, he has instructed us that Andrew Jackson was angry about the Civil War that began 16 years after Jackson's death. Having, let us fancifully imagine, considered and found unconvincing William Seward's 1858 judgment that the approaching Civil War was "an irrepressible conflict," Trump says: "People don't realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?"
Library shelves groan beneath the weight of books asking questions about that war's origins, so who, one wonders, are these "people" who don't ask the questions that Trump evidently thinks have occurred to him uniquely? Presumably they are not the astute "lot of," or at least "some," people Trump referred to when speaking about his February address to a joint session of Congress: "A lot of people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber." Which demotes Winston Churchill, among many others.

What is most alarming (and mortifying to the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated) is not that Trump has entered his eighth decade unscathed by even elementary knowledge about the nation's history. The problem isn't that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.

The United States is rightly worried that a strange and callow leader controls North Korea's nuclear arsenal. North Korea should reciprocate this worry.

Yes, a 70-year-old can be callow if he speaks as sophomorically as Trump did when explaining his solution to Middle Eastern terrorism: "I would bomb the s- — out of them. ... I'd blow up the pipes, I'd blow up the refineries, I'd blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left."
As a candidate, Trump did not know what the nuclear triad is. Asked about it, he said: "We have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ballgame." Invited to elaborate, he said: "I think — I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me." Someone Trump deemed fit to be a spokesman for him appeared on television to put a tasty dressing on her employer's word salad: "What good does it do to have a good nuclear triad if you're afraid to use it?" To which a retired Army colonel appearing on the same program replied with amazed asperity: "The point of the nuclear triad is to be afraid to use the damn thing."

As president-elect, Trump did not know the pedigree and importance of the "one China" policy. About such things he can be, if he is willing to be, tutored. It is, however, too late to rectify this defect: He lacks what T.S. Eliot called a sense "not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence." His fathomless lack of interest in America's path to the present and his limitless gullibility leave him susceptible to being blown about by gusts of factoids that cling like lint to a disorderly mind.

Americans have placed vast military power at the discretion of this mind, a presidential discretion that is largely immune to restraint by the Madisonian system of institutional checks and balances. So, it is up to the public to quarantine this presidency by insistently communicating to its elected representatives a steady, rational fear of this man whose combination of impulsivity and credulity render him uniquely unfit to take the nation into a military conflict.

Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


Trump Administration’s Attack On Free Speech Sets A Dangerous Precedent | Brennan Center for Justice

Cross-posted at HuffPost

Yesterday, in an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl, Reince Priebus, President Trump's Chief of Staff, said that the administration is considering pushing to change the First Amendment to make it easier for the White House to sue media organizations, and that the media needs "to be more responsible with how they report the news." Apparently not satisfied with using the President's Twitter feed to attack the media, the White House is continuing the most sustained attack on the media by an administration in decades. The issue isn't libel – it's whether we can criticize our government and important political leaders without fear of crushing legal liability. The issue, in other words, is American democracy.

Priebus' profoundly troubling statement runs against core American values of free speech and press freedom. During his Presidential campaign, Donald Trump famously promised that, if elected he would look into "opening up" libel laws. Priebus' statement quickly drew bipartisan rebuke, as Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike spoke out about the need to protect freedom of the press. And like many remarks from this White House, the statement seemed off the cuff. Priebus did not necessarily seem to know what he was suggesting (though as a lawyer, presumably he's familiar with the First Amendment). However, in today's press briefing, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer reiterated that a change to libel law "is being looked into."

One of these fundamental principles is that, under the First Amendment, media outlets and the public are free to criticize elected officials. The U.S. Supreme Court articulated this protection in the landmark case "New York Times v. Sullivan," holding that media organizations cannot be convicted of defamation and libel without a showing of "actual malice." That is, unless a media organization knowingly publishes false information, or operates with reckless disregard for truth, the First Amendment protects the speech. This case created the space for wide open and fearless political debate in the United States.

The remarks by the president, his spokesperson, his chief of staff betray ignorance of our guarantee of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. There are no federal libel laws to "open up," and the Supreme Court has made clear that the First Amendment offers robust protection to news organizations. There are very important reasons we allow for a free press that can criticize our leaders. A free press is a crucial bulwark against authoritarianism, and is necessary for informed public debate. And if it were easier to win libel claims against media organizations, we would likely see small and independent media outlets struggle, as only the large corporations would be able to afford the risk of publication.

And the First Amendment protects individual speech as well. Without the principle established in "New York Times v. Sullivan," Donald Trump could have been sued by then-President Obama for Trump's tweets questioning the President's citizenship. In our society, each individual's right to tweet, blog, or stand on a soapbox and criticize the government is integral to our democracy. And the First Amendment also protects the President's right to tweet, and the right of conservative provocateurs such as Breitbart and the Drudge Report to publish without fear of government retaliation. The administration should be careful what they wish for.

Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.

Emmanuel Macron Wins the French Presidency

Independent centrist Emmanuel Macron beat out far-right Marine Le Pen with 65 percent of the vote.

Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a campaign rally in Lyon, France on February 4, 2017.  Robert Pratta / Reuters

Like ​The Atlantic? Subscribe to The Atlantic Daily​, our free weekday email newsletter.
French voters handed Emmanuel Macron, the independent candidate, a decisive victory in the presidential runoff Sunday over Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate, buoying Europe's political establishment that had watched with despair as populist movements threatened to derail the European experiment.

Macron, 39, who had all but been endorsed by Europe's leaders after his first-round victory on April 23, earned 65.5 percent of the vote, according to early exit polls; Le Pen won 34.5 percent—slightly higher than polls had predicted. The polls projected Macron would win approximately 64 percent of the vote. Voter turnout was 74 percent by the time polls closed at 8 p.m. local time, markedly lower than the 80 percent that turned out in 2012. Approximately 4 million blank votes were cast.
Not only is Macron the youngest president in French history (he's a year younger than Louis-Napoléon, Napoléon Bonaparte's nephew, who was 40 when he was elected in 1848), he is also the first president in modern French history who does not belong to a major political party. Despite briefly serving as economy minister under outgoing Socialist President François Hollande, Macron quit the government in August 2016 to launch his own independent party, En Marche!, which he said aimed to "reconcile the two Frances that have been growing apart for too long."

Macron's victory brings an end to a presidential contest labeled a rebuke of the political establishment. Both Macron and Le Pen cast themselves early on as outsiders who are far removed from the established parties that have ruled France for decades. It's an anti-system characterization the two attempted to use against one another—Le Pen derided Macron during the final presidential debate as a Hollande 2.0, whereas Macron cast Le Pen as "the heiress of a name, of a political party, of a system that has prospered for years and years on the back of French people's anger," in apparent reference to her National Front (FN) party, which has maintained a fringe presence in French politics for most of its 45-year history. But Le Pen was able to capitalize on French disaffection with the existing political system, an erosion of the parties that once championed the working classes, and the notion that something fundamental—foreign—ails France.

Addressing her supporters in Paris, Le Pen said France had "chosen continuity" and wished Macron "success in the face of the immense challenges facing the France." She added that her party must renew itself "to form a new political force."

Macron's victory is merely the first step of his efforts to govern France: He must now turn his focus to the next month's parliamentary elections, during which voters will return to the polls to elect members of the National Assembly, the country's lower but more powerful house of parliament. The election is particularly important because it will likely determine who becomes Macron's prime minister, an individual who almost always comes from the party that controls the chamber.
Although Macron's young party doesn't hold any parliamentary seats—making the chances of him commanding a legislative majority or having a premier from his party less likely—it won't be that way for long. The centrist candidate has vowed to field candidates for all 577 of the chamber's seats, pledging not to make "backroom deals" with other parties and instead putting forward a diverse pool of candidates, half of whom he said would be new to politics.

It's an ambitious goal that polls suggest Macron may be able to pull off. A Wednesday poll by OpinionWay-SLPV Analytics puts Macron's En Marche on track to win between 249 and 286 seats in the National Assembly, making it the largest party but just short of a majority. Centrist and conservative parties are expected to win between 200 and 210 seats, while the Socialists are projected to have the greatest loss, slumping from 280 seats to between 28 and 43 seats. Conversely, the far-right FN is anticipated to win between 15 and 25 seats, a marked increase from the two seats it now has.

Though Le Pen's electoral defeat follows similar far-right populist losses in Austria and Netherlands, the ideological surge is far from dead. Indeed, while Le Pen may have lost the presidency, she also boasted her greatest political performance to date. Not only did she more than double her 18-percent finish in the 2012 presidential election, but she also managed to take her father's historically fringe party and, for perhaps the first time in its decades-long history, push it into the political mainstream. Should the FN win as many seats in the legislative election's as polls suggest it might, Le Pen could enjoy another five years of being in the opposition before trying for the presidency again in 2022.
Such a result demonstrates neither the rise nor fall of the populist wave, but rather, the disintegration of the political establishment as we know it. As my colleague Uri Friedman noted shortly before the first round of the French contest:

A disaffected and discouraged citizenry isn't just a boon for populists, who condemn the "establishment" and ease worries about the future with nostalgic appeals to past greatness. It also has consequences for left-right politics. If you lack confidence in the government in general, you're unlikely to distinguish much between left, right, and center. If you doubt that your future is bright, you're unlikely to be satisfied with the same old ping-ponging policies of the center-right and center-left.

As Macron assesses the task of governing and Le Pen revels in her better-than-expected performance, France will confront a future with its two traditionally main parties—the Republicans and the Socialists—being eclipsed, many of the issues that have made this election a contentious one—immigration, terrorism, employment—still relevant, and a legislative election that's likely to be as rancorous as this one.

Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.