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Voting With A Middle Finger: Two Views On The White Working Class

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a miner's helmet up after speaking during a rally May 5, 2016 in Charleston, West Virginia. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI
/
AFP/Getty Images

There is one truth that has endured through the first two years of Donald Trump's presidency: he has kept the support of the core voters who propelled him to the White House.

This week on Hidden Brain, we explore two competing perspectives on Trump supporters and their motivations.

Joan Williams, a Professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, paints a sympathetic picture focused on class divisions and economic pain.

"Since 1970 the wages and economic prospects of this group have absolutely tanked" she says. Williams is the author of the book White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America.

Marisa Abrajano presents a more critical explanation."The issue of immigration is one of the main factors that's driving white voters away from the Democratic party," she explains. Abrajano is a political scientist at the University of California San Diego, and, along with Zoltán Hainal, she's co-author of the book White Backlash: Immigration, Race, and American Politics.


Further reading:

  • Everybody Thinks They're Middle-Class by Sam Grobart
  • For Most Trump Voters, 'Very Warm' Feelings for Him Endured by Pew Research Center
  • Research: How Subtle Class Cues Can Backfire on Your Resume by Lauren Rivera and András Tilcsik
  • The Parties on the Eve of the 2016 Election: Two Coalitions, Moving Further Apart by Pew Research Center
  • Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Parth Shah, Thomas Lu, Laura Kwerel, and Camila Vargas Restrepo. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain.

    Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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    Shankar Vedantam is the host and creator of Hidden Brain. The Hidden Brain podcast receives more than three million downloads per week. The Hidden Brain radio show is distributed by NPR and featured on nearly 400 public radio stations around the United States.
    Thomas Lu is an assistant producer for Hidden Brain.He came to NPR in 2017 as an intern for the TED Radio Hour. He has worked with How I Built This, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Pop Culture Happy Hour. Before coming to NPR, he was a production intern for StoryCorps.
    Tara Boyle is the supervising producer of NPR's Hidden Brain. In this role, Boyle oversees the production of both the Hidden Brain radio show and podcast, providing editorial guidance and support to host Shankar Vedantam and the shows' producers. Boyle also coordinates Shankar's Hidden Brain segments on Morning Edition and other NPR shows, and oversees collaborations with partners both internal and external to NPR. Previously, Boyle spent a decade at WAMU, the NPR station in Washington, D.C. She has reported for The Boston Globe, and began her career in public radio at WBUR in Boston.
    Camila Vargas-Restrepo