Is This What You Think of Trump’s Fan Base Fake News?

Election results are rolling in as we go to print, but in all likelihood you are reading this in the wake of the historic midterm election results. Our stock in trade is Multicultural, Gen Z and Millennial research, but in this post we take a Total Market view to anticipate the election results, with a focus on white ethnocentrism. 

The appeal to that segment could not be more clear. Donald Trump continued to reinforce the threat of immigration right up until the last day of campaigning for the midterms, a message he’s been perpetuating since the very inception of his campaign for president. Despite increasing polarization, it’s undeniable that Trump’s fan base is steadfast in their support of him. Loyal to the “make America great again” slogan, the president’s supporters are typically understood to be older voters who hail from white, rural, small-town America.  As if to confirm this exact scenario, the president has spent most of his time campaigning away from urban cores, strongholds of the Democrats.

Data from our recent America in 2018 research, however contradict prevalent assumption that white people in urban areas (which we defined as counties with populations greater than 50,000 and with 90% or more living in high density urban environments) are less likely to respond Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Yet again, the prevailing assumptions about  Trump’s fan base may not hold water.

In our study we asked, “to what degree are you concerned about the loss of majority status for European Americans?” We asked survey participants to rank their answer on a 5-point scale, where 5 indicated highest concern and categorized respondents as “ethnocentric” if they answer 4 or 5.  Of the 1421 survey respondents identifying as white, 22% were “ethnocentric” using this measure.

We identified four major takeaways:

No surprise: ethnocentricity in Gen Z is uniformly low

All Gen Z segments report lower ethnocentricity than older generations.

Percentage of population worried about immigrants chart

Aging and urbanicity are strongly correlated with ethnocentricity

We found that ethnocentricism among whites peaks among older Millennials and gen Xers, but declines among Boomers. In addition, we found that higher urbanicity is correlated with higher ethnocentricism among whites.

Poll of white respondents concerned about immigrants

Older Millennial and Gen X males living in urban areas are the most concerned about losing majority status

White Americans worried about no longer being the majority poll results

Ethnocentricity among women peaks in Gen X

Poll of women concerned about whites no longer being the majority

Recent academic research confirms that exposure to diversity in urban environments can increase ethnocentricity among whites. In this Harvard study, researchers focused on attitudinal changes towards immigration by analyzing the reactions of white commuter rail riders after seeing Mexican immigrants at their train platform. The data shows that initially, people responded negatively to outsiders. While those negative feelings were ultimately reduced during the course of the study, they never completely subsided. This confirms the theory that urbanicity doesn’t necessarily make you more open to a diverse population, even if it means being at the center of a multicultural and vibrant melting pot.

As we go to print we don’t yet know whether the results in key swing districts in urban areas will reveal that white individuals voted in favor of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, or that they voted to break with that appeal to instinct. For marketers, the challenge could not be more clear, that the increase in polarization across the media creates major opportunities to appeal to a diverse consumer base even as it increases the risk of backlash.  In this climate, Collage Group provides the tools marketers need to navigate the Total Market through the turbulence of consumer sentiment and behavior.

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