Hart Research: Politics of Identity and Othering in 2020 Election

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On behalf of the Voter Participation Center, we conducted an online survey of 1,000 white registered voters and 400 voters of color in battleground states*. The survey was conducted August 28 to September 2, 2020. 

*Battleground states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.  

Key Takeaways 

  1. When it comes to racial and other pertinent cultural issues, there is a sharp dividing line between the Trump base and the rest of the electorate — white non-Trump voters and voters of color. Voters of color and the white voters who do not support Trump represent the majority of the electorate. 
  2. Voters of color and white Biden voters express profound concerns about inequality in the United States. White Trump voters, on the other hand, express particular consternation with what they view as threats to the traditional American way of life. 
  3. All voters—including voters of color and white voters across the political spectrum—voice major concerns about crime and violence in America’s cities. Large majorities of white voters (91% Trump voters, 83% swing voters, 72% Biden voters) and voters of color (82%) say that the crime and violence happening in America’s cities is a very or fairly big problem. 
  4. Nearly seven in 10 white Trump voters (69%) believe that they are losing power in our country with the changes that are occurring in society. These white voters explain in an open-ended question that they believe liberals and Black people (including the Black Lives Matter Movement) are gaining power at their expense.
  5.  As of now, Trump’s efforts to exploit these divisions have done little to expand his support beyond his core base. Potential new voters in the 2020 presidential election lean heavily toward Biden. 
  6. At the same time, white Trump voters continue to view Trump as a patriot and an advocate for the “forgotten American”—validating their view that their voice in society is being diminished and offering to be their champion. 
  7. Among Trump’s base and with white swing voters—particularly men—his rhetoric and advertising about “angry mobs tearing down statues” and efforts to erase America’s heritage have significant traction. 
  8. In terms of potential responses to Trump’s racially-motivated rhetoric, the most effective message among both white swing voters and voters of color who are not firmly committed to Biden is an economic populist appeal. The message below rose to the top with these audiences when ranking their top two out of five tested. 
  9. Explicitly calling Trump racist produces a backlash among some white audiences. 
  10. For voters of color and white Biden voters, two approaches stand out as particularly resonant: calling for people to stand together against hatred instead and pointing out how Trump is using divisive racial and cultural issues to distract us from his failures on the coronavirus. 

See the Data

Memo: Politics of Identity and Othering in 2020 Election

Presentation: Politics of Identity and Othering in 2020 Election