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Economy

Racial Segregation, Not Economic Hardship, Explains Trump

A Gallup economist finds little evidence that low income, unemployment, or loss of manufacturing jobs are behind the candidate’s popularity.
Trump supporters at a rally in Florida.
Trump supporters at a rally in Florida.Evan Vucci/AP

Donald Trump’s foreign policy speech Monday was like a menacing kidnapper’s note, with out-of-context snippets of news stories, half-truths, and full-fledged lies arranged to spell out a familiar threat: immigrants. The Republican presidential nominee suggested that immigrants and their children were responsible for 9/11 and proposed an “ideological screening test” to weed out “those who support bigotry and hatred.” Oh, the irony.

Such xenophobia has long been a staple of this campaign, which has relied heavily on nativist appeals to seal the nation’s borders. But according to a new working paper by Jonathan Rothwell, senior economist at Gallup, the voters cheering, clapping, and nodding in agreement at Trump’s speeches aren’t likely to be interacting with racial or ethnic minorities or immigrants on a regular basis: The best predictor of whether a person supports a Trump presidency is how white their neighborhood is.