Penn political science professor Daniel Hopkins recently co-authored a paper which found President Donald Trump’s success in the 2016 election was not aided by fear of immigrants in communities with increasing diversity, Penn Today reported.
The study, published Nov. 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compared presidential election results from 2012 and 2016 with local demographic changes. The research team analyzed these trends to see if there was a correlation between an influx of immigrants or people from unfamiliar ethnic groups and increased support for an anti-immigration presidential candidate.
The study found little evidence to support the idea that the increased diversity benefited Trump relative to past Republican candidates. In fact, demographic changes actually shifted support towards Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton.
These findings go against some of the previous research on this topic. In 2018, Penn political science and communications professor Diana Mutz wrote a paper attributing Trump’s success in 2016 to white Americans feeling their sense of a dominant status was threatened.
Unlike previous studies, however, the researchers looked at demographic and electoral changes on a small scale, studying individual voting precincts rather than counties or states. Overall, they analyzed data from nearly 32,000 precincts in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington, looking at how demographic changes affect individual communities.
“One of the key things I’ve found is that people, in explaining their unease about immigration, talk about very local encounters. They say it’s challenging to see all of the grocery store signs in Spanish, or that on the phone the bank asked them if they wanted to ‘Press 1’ for English or ‘Press 2’ for Spanish,” Hopkins told Penn Today. “We were very interested in whether local demographic changes were part of the explanation for the election of Donald Trump, and more generally for the rise in anti-immigration populist political parties and candidates in recent years.”
Hopkins was joined by Gregory Huber and Seth Hill, political science professors at Yale University and the University of California, San Diego, respectively.
This new study adds to an abundance of conflicting research about American views on immigration. While a 2018 Gallup poll found 75% of adults favored hiring significantly more border security agents, a 2019 Gallup poll found 75% of Americans said immigration is a good thing.