This election cycle, we’ve heard a lot about the fact that many of Donald Trump’s supporters are more ethnocentric than the norm, including in Monkey Cage posts by Michael Tesler and Kerem Ozan Kalkan. Ethnocentric whites on average evaluate other whites more favorably than they do other groups — and they like Trump’s message. So far, no surprise.
But what about the whites who don’t? Some whites evaluate whites, on average, the same as they do other groups; but some whites actually rank whites less favorably than they do other groups, and these whites who are the opposite of ethnocentric tend to support a very different set of candidates and policies.
To understand this in detail, we looked at the data.
In the American National Election Studies (ANES) 2016 Pilot Study, 22 percent of white respondents rated whites colder on a feeling thermometer than they did, on average, blacks, Hispanics, gays and lesbians, feminists, transgender persons and Muslims.
As you can see below, whites who scored lower than zero on the ethnocentrism scale reported warmer feelings toward President Obama and the 2016 Democratic presidential candidates than they did toward the 2016 Republican presidential candidates — which contrasts especially with the attitudes of very ethnocentric whites. That’s not surprising either, of course — especially given the fact that only seven of the 189 whites who scored lower than zero on the ethnocentrism scale thought of themselves as Republican.
What about issues other than the candidates? There too, we find some striking differences between whites who are ethnocentric, whites who are neutral, and whites who are the opposite of ethnocentric.
To find out about this, we turned to the American National Election Studies (ANES) 2012 Time Series Study, in which 8 percent of 3,226 white respondents rated whites colder than their average rating for blacks, Hispanics and Asians; 37 percent of white respondents rated whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians more or less equally; and 55 percent of white respondents rated whites more warmly than they did blacks, Hispanics and Asians, on average.
We looked at how those three groups evaluated two policies specifically related to ethnic identity: increasing levels of immigration and allowing universities to consider applicants’ race with an eye to increasing the number of black students.
White support for these policies was relatively low. Only 13 percent of whites reported that immigration levels should be increased and only 9 percent of whites favored affirmative action for blacks in university admissions. But that varied tremendously by how ethnocentric respondents were.
You can see our results in the figure below. The whites on the negative side of the ethnocentrism scale were much more likely to support increasing levels of immigration and affirmative action in university admissions than were the neutral or ethnocentric whites.
How someone feels about his or her own ethnicity influences their politics on everything from which candidate they’ll back to what policies they support. This is true for people who are ethnocentric, and — as indicated by the results above — it is also true for people who are the opposite of ethnocentric.
L.J Zigerell is an assistant professor of politics and government at Illinois State University. Follow him on Twitter @LJZigerell.
Arafat Kabir is a master’s candidate in political science at Illinois State University. Follow him on Twitter @ArafatKabirUpol.