Blog Post

Income inequality boosted Trump vote

Our early econometric analysis shows that Donald Trump performed more strongly in states with higher income inequality. He also did better in states with a higher share of less-educated, older, US-born and non-Hispanic voters.

By: , and Date: November 9, 2016 Topic: Global Economics & Governance

Did the level of income inequity influence voters in the 2016 US presidential election? To answer this question, we analysed the currently available results to uncover the factors influencing Trump’s share of the vote.

Recent surveys and analyses (for example the Bloomberg report here) show that the share of Trump votes was higher in counties with a higher share of white, middle-income, US-born, rural and less-educated voters. In our econometric regressions we control for some of these factors to see if income inequality has additional explanatory power. Using state-level data, we find that in all variants of our regressions income inequality has a positive and statistically significant parameter estimate (see table below). This means that more unequal states were more likely to vote for Trump.

Since voting behaviour is rather persistent in the US, our dependent variable is the change of the share of Republican candidate votes in 2016 compared to the average in the past three elections, (ie the average of the 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections). Some of the explanatory variables are highly correlated, like the share of Hispanic and the share of foreign born population, so we estimated different versions of the model in which we include only one of the highly correlated variables.

We find that a swing towards the Republicans was stronger in states where:

  • Income inequality is higher (measured as the Gini coefficient),
  • The Hispanic share of the population is lower,
  • The foreign-born share of the population is lower,
  • The share of the population that is young (19-44) is lower and the share of older people (45+) is higher,
  • The share of the population with at most a high school degree is higher and the share of the population with at least some college education is lower.

On the other hand, when trying to explain the shift to Donald Trump compared with the previous three Republican candidates, our analysis does not find statistically significant effects from gender and the African-American share of the population.

We will refine our calculations by using county-level data later, but these state-level findings already indicate an important role for income inequality in predicting votes for Trump. In fact, our regression results for the determinants of Trump votes are rather similar to the determinants of ‘leave’ votes in the United Kingdom’s June 2016 Brexit referendum, as one of us analysed here. While our results should be interpreted carefully, not least because both main US presidential candidates have certain characteristics which made them unpopular in the eyes of certain segments of the society, our findings are not against the interpretation that the ‘losers’ of globalisation cast protest votes against the status quo.

trump-and-inequality-table

Notes: The dependent variable is the difference between the share of votes for Donald Trump minus the average share of votes for the Republican candidate in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections.  t statistics in parentheses, statistical significance: * p<0.10, ** p<0.05, *** p<0.01. Data collected at 11.00CET on 9/11/2016.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

The Conference on the Future of Europe: vehicle for reform versus forum for reflection?

The approach of the European Union’s institutions to the Conference on the Future of Europe is muddled, with risks for the outcome.

By: Sergio Fabbrini, John Erik Fossum, Magdalena Góra and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 15, 2021
Read article
 

Opinion

Relaunching transatlantic cooperation with a carbon border adjustment mechanism

The best way for the EU and the US to jointly introduce carbon border adjustment would be to form a ‘climate club’.

By: Simone Tagliapietra and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Energy & Climate, Global Economics & Governance Date: June 11, 2021
Read article More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

[LIVE] A transatlantic climate alliance

When Joe Biden visits Europe for the first time as US president, he should begin forging a transatlantic green deal.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate, Global Economics & Governance Date: June 11, 2021
Read article Download PDF More on this topic More by this author
 

External Publication

The Value of Money, Controversial Economic Cultures in Europe: Italy and Germany

A discussion of Italian and German macro-economic cultures and performances.

By: Francesco Papadia Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 10, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

Quo vadis, Swiss-European Union relations?

Switzerland’s decision to abandon talks on a framework agreement with the European Union will have far reaching consequences. The outline of future relations now depends both on the EU’s response and on domestic developments.

By: Stefanie Walter Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 7, 2021
Read article More by this author
 

Opinion

Inflation, inequality and immigration: Spelling the digital recovery with three “I”s

The digital transition offers us a new opportunity to reach out across the global economy - hopefully we will find the strength to use it.

By: Rebecca Christie Topic: Global Economics & Governance, Innovation & Competition Policy Date: June 3, 2021
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

Women, Covid-19 & The EU Recovery Plan

How can we ensure that the recovery plan doesn’t leave women behind when 84% of working women in the EU aged 15-64 are employed by services that were predominantly impacted by Covid-19 restrictions?

Speakers: Mary Collins, Maria Demertzis, Alexandra Geese, Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, Dan Mobley, Naomi O'Leary and Emma Rainey Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 2, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

What Swiss voters expect to happen next, after EU talks fail

Proponents and opponents of the Swiss-EU institutional framework agreement have different takes on the impact of a success or failure of the agreement.

By: Stefanie Walter Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 31, 2021
Read article Download PDF More on this topic
 

Policy Contribution

The great COVID-19 divergence: managing a sustainable and equitable recovery in the European Union

Policymakers must act to prevent lasting divergence within the EU and to prevent scarring from the fallout from the pandemic.

By: Grégory Claeys, Zsolt Darvas, Maria Demertzis and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 20, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

The Sound of Gita Gopinath

IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath joins Bruegel Director Guntram Wolff to discuss the uneven recovery from the pandemic with a live clubhouse audience.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 6, 2021
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

Divergent Recoveries from the Pandemic: Conversation with IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath and Bruegel Director Guntram Wolff

In this episode of The Sound of Economics Live, IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath and Bruegel Director Guntram Wolff will debate the uneven recovery from the pandemic.

Speakers: Gita Gopinath and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: May 5, 2021
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

Form a climate club: United States, European Union and China

Can the three biggest economies agree a carbon tax on imports to catalyse climate action globally?

Speakers: Simone Tagliapietra, Sheldon Whitehouse and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 3, 2021
Load more posts