Over the past month, I have had the opportunity to present the work here on the website to various audiences around New York City. Needless to say, it has been an experience. Audiences are skeptical of Trump and his chances of becoming the Republican nominee, much less the President of the United States. For those willing to entertain the idea, they make allusions to racism as the source of his popularity. After repeatedly confronting this sentiment, I set out to better understand how race influences election results. Full disclosure, this is a touchy subject. However, data science is a tool for gleaning truth, and so here is what I found out.
After reviewing the literature on the rise of Trump, I discovered underlying themes: authoritarianism among whites, and perceived threats from outsiders. So the hypothesis goes, whites who score high on authoritarianism vote Republican. Voters who score high on authoritarianism resist change and rally together against perceived threats from outsiders. So how might we model white resistance to change, especially to outsider groups?
Links to the literature:
I went to US census data to track population change over time, gathering stats on the number of whites over 18 years old for all US states in 2002 and 2012 as well as the total populations for all US states in 2002 and 2012. With these data, I computed a change in white ratio, over the 10 year period. The math looks like this:
For each state:
[(# of whites in 2012 – # of whites in 2002) / (# of whites in 2002)]
[(total population in 2012 – total population in 2002) / (total population in 2002)]
Each result was multiplied by -1, so large declines in the white ratio turned positive, and vice versa.
Here is the data, in descending order (largest decline at top), and color coded by 2012 presidential election outcome (blue = democrat, red = republican).
As the visualization shows, of the 10 states to see the greatest percentage decline in white-ratio between 2002-2012, 9 voted Democrat in the 2012 presidential election.
Of the 10 states to see the lowest percentage decline in white-ratio between 2002-2012, 7 voted Republican in the 2012 presidential election.
We have a strong predictor of election outcome: decline in white-ratio over a 10 year period. A high scoring state has a 90% chance of voting Democrat.
For both groups, it was the case that the denominator, total population, changed faster than number of whites. This is to say, white citizens over 18 years old are not declining; however, the total state populations are growing faster. For the bottom 10 states, the two ratios are more similar, although total population is still growing faster.
Interestingly, for both groups, states are equally likely, 60% likelihood, to have white-ratios below that for the entire US (~0.78).
Thus, the analysis supports the hypothesis: authoritarian whites are more likely to vote republican (70% likelihood among the bottom 10 states) and are likely to perceive threats from outsiders (the below average white ratios) as well as resist change (the low percentage decline over a 10 year period).
Conversely, voters open to change (the high percentage decline over a 10 year period) are more likely to vote democrat (90% likelihood among the top 10 states).
This analysis has proven helpful in preparing for future presentations, and I hope you have found it helpful in your pursuits, or at least interesting!