Trump voters aren’t voting policy, they’re voting identity

We’ve been reading so many words about who the Trump voter is and why they vote the way they do. So many explanations. But this is the first article that made sense to me, and it tells how people are voting more for who they “identify” with, who they feel represents them, and people like them than for any particular issue or policy. It is an interview with Katherine J. Cramer about her book The Politics of Resentment. Here is part of the interview:

…we all do that thing of encountering information and interpreting it in a way that supports our own predispositions. Recent studies in political science have shown that it’s actually those of us who think of ourselves as the most politically sophisticated, the most educated, who do it more than others.

So I really resist this characterization of Trump supporters as ignorant.

There’s just more and more of a recognition that politics for people is not — and this is going to sound awful, but — it’s not about facts and policies. It’s so much about identities, people forming ideas about the kind of person they are and the kind of people others are. Who am I for, and who am I against?

Policy is part of that, but policy is not the driver of these judgments. There are assessments of, is this someone like me? Is this someone who gets someone like me?

I think all too often, we put our energies into figuring out where people stand on particular policies. I think putting energy into trying to understanding they way they view the world and their place in it — that gets us so much further toward understanding how they’re going to vote, or which candidates are going to be appealing to them.

Author: Caterina Fake

Literature, Art, Poetry, Homeschooling Mother. Founder & CEO, Findery. Co-founder, Flickr & Hunch.

3 thoughts on “Trump voters aren’t voting policy, they’re voting identity”

  1. If only there were a “Trump voter,” I would feel better about much of the last week. I think that Trump drew a variety of kinds of voters his way. There were the “I am Republican and vote that ticket” voters, there were the “I don’t usually vote but I like this guy, warts and all” voters, there were the “I voted for Obama in 08, and am still waiting for the change I was promised” voters, there were the “can’t vote for HRC” voters, there were the “finally someone who will put those people back in there place” voters, and many other kinds. I suspect that there is about as much coherence among Trump voters as there was in Trump’s message and campaign.

    The great news–and I might be looking a little too hard for silver linings–is that there was not that many of them. Total. All together. This fractured coalition may not hang together, especially if their needs aren’t met, or can’t be met because they require different, perhaps even contradictory, solutions, or because they see that the man they voted for is not really so much like them after all.

    Those of us who voted another way did so for our own reasons. I, for one, was saddened and a bit shocked by the results of the election. We need to grieve (however each of us do that), pick ourselves up and get to work. Take care of your neighbors and fellow citizens, even if they voted differently. Pay for your news. Get engaged in local, state and federal issues. Run for school board, local, state or federal office. And vote. Too many of us stayed home–those who showed up won this one.



  2. I think it was simple: Trump somehow convinced people that he understood what they were afraid of (and convinced many to be afraid of things they might not have been before) and told them that he had the answer.

    This is where the comparisons to Hitler come from and I think they’re spot on. Trump used fear of Obama, blacks, Jews, Muslims, smart women, and anything and anyone his core group could be made afraid of to rally support.

    Think I’m wrong? I give you Stephen Bannon, his new “Karl Rove.”


  3. Two books came to mind: Who Are We? – And Should It Matter in the 21st Century? by Gary Younge and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. The former is about identity politics, the latter politics through the lens of moral psychology. I think both are relevant to the discussion here. However we think we are right and rational, the truth is we are voting based on emotion and subjective values that we like to think are universal.


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