Philip Klinkner writes in an op-ed:
“Ever since he announced his presidential campaign in July 2015, Donald Trump has made opposition to immigration central to his political strategy — and pundits have debated whether this strategy was effective. He won, of course, but did he win despite his aggressive rhetoric, or because of it?
Data from the recently released American National Election Study has finally provided an answer: Immigration was central to the election, and hostility toward immigrants animated Trump voters.
Comparing the results of the 2012 and 2016 ANES surveys shows that Trump increased his vote over Mitt Romney’s on a number of immigration-related issues. In 2012 and 2016, the ANES asked respondents their feelings toward immigrants in the country illegally. Respondents could rate them anywhere between 100 (most positive) or 0 (most negative). Among those with positive views (above 50), there was no change between 2012 and 2016, with Romney and Trump each receiving 22% of the vote. Among those who had negative views, however, Trump did better than Romney, capturing 60% of the vote compared with only 55% for Romney.
Attitudes toward immigrants in the country illegally speak to why some voters switched parties between 2012 and 2016. Among those who voted in both elections but didn’t switch their vote, the average rating of immigrants in the country illegally was 42. Among those who switched from Romney to Hillary Clinton, it was 41. But those who switched their vote from President Obama to Trump were much more negative, with an average rating of only 32.
However, Trump’s support wasn’t limited to just those who oppose immigrants residing in the country illegally — he also picked up votes among those who want to limit all immigration to the United States. In 2012, Romney received 58% of the vote among those who said they think that “the number of immigrants from foreign countries who are permitted to come to the United States” should be decreased. In 2016, Trump got 74% of the vote among those who held this view.
Overall, immigration represented one of the biggest divides between Trump and Clinton voters. Among Trump voters, 67% endorsed building a southern border wall and 47% of them favored it a great deal. In contrast, 77% of Clinton voters opposed building a wall and 67 % strongly opposed it.
. . . .
Trump won in 2016 by mobilizing the minority of Americans with anti-immigration views — but only because he avoided an offsetting counter-mobilization by the majority of Americans with pro-immigration views. Now that he is president and his immigration views can’t be dismissed as mere campaign rhetoric, that counter-mobilization may finally be manifesting itself.
Widespread protests against Trump’s executive order barring individuals from several Muslim countries, congressional skepticism about the effectiveness and cost of Trump’s proposed wall, and increased awareness of the negative effect that his policies are having on U.S. businesses, schools and families suggest a growing backlash. Should that backlash develop and sustain itself, the immigration views that helped Trump in 2016 might prove to be his undoing.”
I’ve commented that notwithstanding Trump’s outrageous statements about immigrants, and the racist, white nationalist tinge to many of his supporters’ rallies, the passion and organization of the opposition that has appeared since the inauguration seems to greatly exceed that displayed by Hillary supporters during the election, when it probably would have made a material difference in the outcome.
And, yes, racism does appear to have been a significant factor driving a portion of the Trump electorate. See this article by Thomas Wood in the Washington Post “Racism motivated Trump voters more than authoritarianism” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/04/17/racism-motivated-trump-voters-more-than-authoritarianism-or-income-inequality/?utm_term=.9942049017ca.