Digby rounds up some links arguing that economic anxiety does not explain the rise of Trump.
She blockquotes Philip Klinkner:
You can ask just one simple question to find out whether someone likes Donald Trump more than Hillary Clinton: Is Barack Obama a Muslim? If they are white and the answer is yes, 89 percent of the time that person will have a higher opinion of Trump than Clinton.They both misunderstand the meaning of these data.
That’s more accurate than asking people if it’s harder to move up the income ladder than it was for their parents (54 percent), whether they oppose trade deals (66 percent), or if they think the economy is worse now than last year (81 percent). It’s even more accurate than asking them if they are Republican (87 percent).
Those results come from the 2016 American National Election Study (ANES) pilot survey. My analysis indicates that economic status and attitudes do little to explain support for Donald Trump.
Klinkner argues that if anxiety about the economy explains the rise of Trump, then everyone worried about the economy should support Trump. For those who answered 'yes' to the economic anxiety question ("...if it’s harder to move up the income ladder than it was for their parents"), only about half (54%) support Trump. That's statistically meaningless--a coin flip. Klinkner interprets this to mean that economic anxiety cannot explain the rise of Trump; among people with high economic anxiety, about half support Trump and half don't. There's no relationship between economic anxiety and support for Trump.
But this conclusion is ridiculous. Noting that half the people who are worried about the economy support Trump does not mean that Trump supporters aren't motivated by anxiety over the economy. It might mean that one's views on the economy are unrelated to support for Trump, but it could also be that about half of the people worried about the economy have been driven to the far right--to Trump--and everyone else worried about the economy has reacted in other ways.
Indeed, in times of economic crisis, societies sometimes undergo left-right polarization. These data are consistent with a left-right polarization: the reason that only half of the people worried about the economy support Trump is not because support for Trump is unrelated to the economy, but rather because the other half has lurched leftward, towards Sanders.
An analogy might be helpful. Let's substitute "vitamin C deficiency" for the economy, "oranges" for Trump, and "green peppers" for Sanders.
Two of the best sources of vitamin C are green peppers and oranges. Instead of asking people if they are worried about the economy, we've asked who is worried about vitamin C deficiency. Let's say exactly 100 respondents say they are worried about vitamin C deficiency. Of those, 54 respondents report eating extra oranges, while most of the remaining 46 report eating extra green peppers.
By the logic of Klinkner and Digby, eating oranges in unrelated to vitamin C deficiency: since only half of respondents worried about vitamin C deficiency are eating extra oranges, vitamin C deficiency cannot be motivating people to eat extra oranges. But that's clearly ridiculous; about half of people worried about vitamin C deficiency have chosen to eat extra oranges while the other half decided to eat extra green peppers instead. Just because only half the people have chosen oranges does not mean that their decision is not motivated by anxiety over vitamin C deficiency.
Let's cut and paste that above paragraph with economy, Trump, and Sanders sprinkled in:
By the logic of Klinkner and Digby, eating oranges in unrelated to vitamin C deficiency. Since only half of respondents worried about vitamin C deficiency (the economy) are eating extra oranges (supporting Trump), vitamin C deficiency (the economy) cannot be motivating people to eat extra oranges (support Trump). But that's clearly ridiculous; about half of people worried about vitamin C deficiency (the economy) have chosen to eat extra oranges (support Trump) while the other half decided to eat extra green peppers (support Sanders) instead. Just because only half the people have chosen oranges (support Trump) does not mean that their decision is not motivated by vitamin C deficiency (the economy).
If so, this means that Klinkner's causality is all wrong. He notes high levels of racial resentment predict support for Trump. He and Digby interpret this to mean that high levels of racial resentment is causing support for Trump, while economic concerns are unrelated. But the data don't show that. These data on racial resentment would also be consistent with left-right polarization. Among those worried about the economy, about half have begun blaming their problems on minorities and immigrants, and find an outlet for their racist/xenophobic beliefs in Trump. The other half has begun to blame capitalism for their problems and has found their outlet in Sanders' socialism. If left-right polarization is occurring, this is exactly what we would expect: a large portion of respondents with anxiety over the economy, and the half that blames minorities and immigrants supports Trump whereas the half that blames something else are against Trump. All that racism and xenophobia didn't just appear out of thin air.