What Drives Trump Supporters: Professor Christopher Sebastian Parker on The Michelangelo Signorile Show

Christopher Parker

On July 6, 2017, UW Political Science Professor Christopher Sebastian Parker appeared on “The Michelangelo Signorile Show” to discuss his research on the impact of racial anxiety on the 2016 presidential election. Specifically, Professor Parker talked about the results of the Voter Study Group, which is a group that includes academics as well as right- and left-leaning think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the Center for American Progress. The group “tracks the attitudes and votes of the same 8,000 adults since before the 2012 election, and then throughout the 2016 election. So it’s like the nation’s largest, longest political focus group.” 

Professor Parker was one of a handful of scholars that predicted Donald Trump would win the GOP nomination and then the presidential election. Although some scholars have attributed Trump’s victory to the economic anxiety of rural working-class whites, Parker argues that instead it was anxiety about issues of race, ethnicity, and LGBTQ rights that drove Trump supporters.

According to Professor Parker, who co-authored the 2013 book Change they can’t believe in about the rise of the Tea Party with Matt Barreto, notes:

“66% of people who supported the Tea Party supported Donald Trump. Trump won 48% of college-educated whites. You cannot tell me those people are anxious about the economy.”  

In fact, the data suggests that many Trump supporters were economically stable and lived in zip codes in which the population was predominantly white.

Professor Parker argues that a focus on economic anxiety is problematic because it may lead to Democrats pushing for another candidate like Bernie Sanders, whose platform is centered on issues of class. If that were to happen, Parker warns, people of color will not turn out to vote. “The left needs to be more pragmatic, for now it has to be about identity politics—we have to get people of color out there to vote,” Parker said.

Along with his colleague Professor Matt Barreto (UCLA), Professor Parker is currently working on another book titled, “The Great White Hope: Donald Trump, Race and the Crisis of American Democracy.” The book’s findings suggest that the more scared of Trump that people of color were, the more they were politically engaged. In this way, negative affect, anxiety and anger can be a positive source for change.

Signorile is the host of “The Michelangelo Signorile Show” and the Editor-At-Large for Huffington Post Gay Voices. The Michelangelo Signorile Show airs across the U.S. and Canada weekdays from 3-6 pm on SiriusXM Progress 127.