Modern American populism: Analyzing the economics behind the Silent Majority, the Tea Party and Trumpism

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Patenaude, Willis
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Tessa Ditonto
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Political Science

This article researches populism, more specifically, Modern American Populism (MAP), constructed of white, rural, and economically oppressed reactionarianism, which was borne out of the political upheaval of the 1960’s Civil Rights movement. The research looks to explain the causes of populism and what leads voters to support populist movements and politicians. The research focuses on economic anxiety as the main cause but also examines an alternative theory of racial resentment. In an effort to answer the question, what causes

populist movements and motivations, I apply a research approach that utilizes qualitative and quantitative methods. There is an examination of literature that defines populism, its causes and a detailed discussion of the case studies, including the 1972 election of Richard Nixon; the Tea Party election of 2010; and the 2016 election of Donald Trump. In addition, statistical data analysis was run using American National Election Studies (ANES) surveys associated with each specific case study. These case studies were chosen because they most represent forms of populist movements in modern American history. While ample qualitative evidence suggested support for the hypothesis that economic anxiety is a necessary condition for populist voting patterns that elected Nixon, the Tea Party and Trump, the statistical data only supported the hypothesis in two cases, 2010 and 2016, with 1972 coming back inconclusive. The data also suggested that both economic anxiety and racial resentment played a role in 2010 and 2016, while having no significant effect in 1972 in either case. This suggests that further research needs to be conducted into additional populist case studies, as well as an examination into the role economic anxiety and economic crises play on racial resentment and racially motivated voting behavior.

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Tue May 01 00:00:00 UTC 2018