The 2016 Presidential election was a race between two candidates, Donald Trump and HillaryClinton. One of the core policy issues, that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigned onwas illegal immigration. The research here is to focus on how much of an impact did thecandidacy of someone like Trump have on the electorate. The argument here is if whether or notTrump really changed the understanding of how attitudes are developed by the voter. Previousresearch looks at party, ideology, race, etc. to explain how attitudes lead to the vote. However,Trump was seen differently by the electorate. This USA Today article shows how Trump wasdifferent: “How Anti-Establishment Outsider Donald Trump was Elected the 45th President ofthe United States” (Page and Heath 2016). The notion is that Trump was different than Hillarybecause he was an outsider or he is not a typical politician. Therefore, what effect did this haveon the voter and the vote in regards to illegal immigration.
This paper argues that Trump being an outsider resulted in a candidate that is not likewhat you would expect in normal candidates. The paper finds that Trump and Clinton bothcampaigned for policy but Trump’s approach will result in a difference in attitude developmentbecause Trump used the notions presented in social identity theory and predictive appeals whilehe campaigned for policy in regards to illegal immigration. Watching videos like the one on theWashington Post article, with the crowds chanting “Build the Wall” (Borchers 2017) creates aphenomenon where Trump could be considered an unique candidate. The result of a candidatelike Trump was that his voters attitude development was less influenced by political identity. Inorder to understand this phenomenon, the discussion of attitudes needs to take place.
Attitudes and Their Relation to Issue Voting
In trying to understand, how a voter determines which candidate they will vote for and how theydevelop the attitudes towards the specific candidate, first an extended discussion of issue votingmust take place. Attitudes, however, are defined as being a system of beliefs both negative andpositive, that invokes some form of feeling and emotion and action regarding the entity that isbeing evaluated (Cottam et al. 162). In using this definition of the attitudes, this paper will try torelate the idea of how people develop attitudes and its relation to the idea of how issue votingplay a role in regards to undocumented immigration during the 2016 Presidential election.
An individual who identifies with a particular party, that identification tends to have astrong psychological attachment. The strength and direction of how someone identifies inregards to a party is crucial in order to understand what accounts for that individual’s behaviorand attitudes (Campbell et al. 121). This understanding of party identification can be looked atthrough the lens of “social identity theory”. This theory argues that there are two types of groups,both an in-group and also, an out group. The assumption is that individuals can buildassociations with the in-group much easier than the out group. Social identity theory argues that“partisan identity is indeed a psychological attachment akin to religious, ethnic, or class identityrather than based in rational considerations” (Lewis-Beck et al. 134). Social identity is depictedin many empirical studies, and is shown to have a large influence on the individual’s attitudes.
To look at the importance, of party identification and social identity theory, it isimportant to note that research has found very few individuals over the span of 4 years that havecrossed party lines (Franklin 302). An explanation for why this phenomenon happens could bethe “ideological difference hypothesis”. This hypothesis argues that certain groups become increasingly Republican and increasingly Democratic is due to the policy preferences of the members within the group. This hypothesis is looked at being distinct from social identity theory.In the sense, do social groups form identities or do the characteristics of issues like policydevelop their identities (Abramowitz and Saunders 182-183). However, this paper will look touse the ideas presented in social identity theory as being more prominent because between thetwo theories presented they both speak to an in-group and an out group, therefore, theassumption could be made social identity theory holds more weight.
To understand attitudes in the American electorate, it is important to understand them in the lens of social identity theory. Decades of research, has shown a link between authoritarianism and racism. This linkage has created a strong relationship between the vote and a political party with a racist agenda (Erikson and Tedin 180). An authoritarian follows leaders that areauthoritarian in nature, but they also, fear the other group in society (MacWilliams 717).Therefore, with using the idea of authoritarianism as a factor leading to the vote, it becomes clearthat it is just an extension of the social identity theory. Being afraid of the “other” also, by thislogic that means that there is an in-group, and an outgroup. Therefore, social identity reflectshow the individual votes in elections. A brief discussion of political socialization is necessary inorder to understand the how individuals develop the attitudes they do to be able to beincorporated in the political ingroups and outgroups that social identity theory argues for.
“Social learning theory” is an important theory in understanding how individuals are able to socialize with various groups. Social learning theory argues that the success of transmission is dependent on the strength of cue giving and the reinforcement on the part of the individual who is socializing (Jennings, Stoker, and Bowers 4). When you look at social identity theory and
social learning theory, it becomes obvious that the way an individual develops attitudes by learning makes it easier for that individual to become part of that particular group. Therefore, the question that arises from this discussion is what makes certain individuals more or less prone to becoming easily accepted into certain groups along the premises of social identity.
Modern social psychologist, argue there are five major traits of personality that allows forindividuals to be more open to different groups. These five include openness, conscientious,extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability. For the purposes of this paper, opennesswill be the most relevant. Openness is the idea of conforming and preference to a routine versusthe individual being open to new experiences (Erikson and Tedin 139). Openness is relevant tothe society identity theory because if partisanship is a psychological attachment as previouslyshown, then the ability to psychological be open to new experiences will make it easier for anindividual to join both an ingroup and an out group. Social identity and its importance, also,becomes apparent with discussion of demographics and how individual characteristics influencesthe idea of issue of voting.
Demographics and its Relation to Issue Voting
A known understanding in demographics with its relation to politics is that various racial groupshave different attitudes on different political parties and it reflects their vote in elections. Forinstance, Whites are more likely to identify with the Republican party. On the other hand, theDemocratic party, holds the plurality in minority allegiance (Erikson & Tedin 197). Trying tounderstand this dynamic of race and the party can be also understood through the lens of socialidentity. Party Identification is mainly understood as being relatively an enduring and stablepsychological attachment to a particular political party (Highton 457). Therefore, a party in its relation to race could be seen as an identity that influences the vote. Race could then be an important factor, in terms of attitude development.
Another demographic that affects attitude development and issue voting is how the individual identifies themselves. Research has shown that there is a causal relationship betweenideological labels and self-identification. Ideological labels also have a strong impact in whichissues and symbols meditate on self-identification (Conover and Feldman 640-641). Ideologicallabels have strong influence on the vote as well. This would mean liberals would vote forDemocrats and conservatives would vote for Republicans. This is depicted in research, duringthe 2012 election, individuals who were more liberal gave most support for Obama. While,individuals who were more conservative gave most support for Romney (Erikson and Tedin259). Ideological labels has had a strong impact on attitudes development, because they canplace candidates they wish to vote for on the scale, and look for an alignment of views. This wasnoticeable in the 2012 election, in regards to the Obama and Romney vote.
Recent research on microtargeting, shows the importance of race and party. It was shown in empirical research that states like Florida who had the most information on the individual has had the most accurate data for campaigns for which they tried to gain support from. Virginia and Colorado in the study was least accurate because the study showed lack of information allowed for the least amount accuracy in microtargeting (Endres 771-774). This research adds value to the importance of demographics to the American electorate.
Ideological labels, could be explained through the lens of social identity. Having an ideological label basically means being a liberal is the ingroup and being conservative is the outgroup. On the other hand, it could be true that being a conservative could be the ingroup and being a liberal could be the out group. What classical research has shown is that there is no single clear pattern for single policy issues, and there is not a trace of an overall left-right dimension (Axelrod 58). However, this paper has shown that ideology has a strong influence onthe vote. Ideology has been shown to increase the strength of attachment to one’s party, becauseas Erikson and Tedin showed it was a good indicator for support. Therefore, social identitytheory could also be further enhanced with this logic. The stronger the attachment to a party orthe sense of it the more likely that the individual will be involved in political affairs (Campbell etal. 143). This understanding of party and ideology, could lead to the discussion of issue voting.If ideology influences issues and the vote, the question that arises from the previousdiscussion is what actually influences the vote. “The directional theory of issue voting” arguesthat an individual responds to issues in a symbolic way are based on the intensity and thedirection of the response. For the direction, does the individual favor or not favor the symbol.Also, the intensity of the issue is this idea of how the individual feels about the issue.(Rabinowitz and Macdonald 94). The question that arises from this discussion is what allows forsomeone to have strong feelings towards or a certain direction towards the issue. Therefore, as anextension of both demographics and attitudes, a discussion of political knowledge is needed. Political Knowledge and Its Relation to Issue Voting
In a democracy, the perfect or ideal situation would be that the citizen will disagree with eachother but their opinions they argue for have reason and are also, logically sound. However, theAmerican public in general falls short of this expectation in terms of how the individual developspublic opinion (Erikson and Tedin 55).