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.

View comments
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

What has driven the votes for Germany’s right-wing Alternative für Deutschland?

The AfD vote in East Germany was consistently stronger than in the West, even after controlling for income, age, education, religion and the overall rural nature of the new Bundesländer.

By: Alexander Roth and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: October 5, 2017
Read about event

Upcoming Event

Nov
28
12:30

Sustainable growth in transition countries

This event will feature a presentation of the EBRD Transition Report 2017-18.

Speakers: Jonathan Charles, Zsolt Darvas, Jean Pisani-Ferry, Sergei Guriev and Debora Revoltella Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Hong Kong should add the euro to its dollar peg

Volatility offers an opportunity for the territory to rethink its strategy. With the economy now more synchronised with China than ever before, the dollar peg may no longer provide an accurate reflection of the real value of the Hong Kong dollar.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: September 12, 2017
Read about event

Past Event

Past Event

Bruegel Annual Meetings 2017

The Annual Meetings are Bruegel’s flagship event. They offer a mixture of large public debates and small private sessions about key issues in European and global economics. In a series of high-level discussions, Bruegel’s scholars, members and stakeholders will address the economic policy challenges facing Europe.

Speakers: Carlos Sallé Alonso, José Antonio Álvarez Álvarez, Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, Pervenche Béres, Matthias Buck, Grégory Claeys, Zsolt Darvas, Jean Luc Demarty, Maria Demertzis, Anna Ekström, Lowri Evans, Ferdinando Giugliano, Sandro Gozi, Peter Grünenfelder, Reiner Hoffmann, Levin Holle, Kate Kalutkiewicz, Steffen Kampeter, Peter Kažimír, Emmanuel Lagarrigue, Matti Maasikas, Steven Maijoor, Reza Moghadam, Nathalie Moll, James Murray, Johan Van Overtveldt, Julia Reinaud, André Sapir, Dirk Schoenmaker, Mateusz Szczurek, Marianne Thyssen, Jean-Claude Trichet, Reinhilde Veugelers, Nicolas Véron, Ida Wolden Bache, Liviu Voinea, Guntram B. Wolff and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation, Global Economics & Governance, Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Square - Brussels Meeting Centre Date: September 7, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Hurricane Harvey’s economic impact

What’s at stake: tropical storm Harvey has caused unprecedented and catastrophic flooding in southeastern Texas. We review recent estimates of the economic impact of this natural disaster.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: September 4, 2017
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Should the EU have the power to vet foreign takeovers?

Should the EU have the power to vet foreign takeovers? André Sapir and Alicia Garcia-Herrero debate the issue, which has become topical in view of recent Chinese investment in Europe.

By: Alicia García-Herrero and André Sapir Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: September 1, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

The issue of U.S. prescription drug prices

What’s at stake: Americans spend a lot on prescription drugs, more per capita than any other country by far. Individual cases of sharp price increases - like the case of the EpiPen - have recently driven attention to this issue. We report review contributions on this topic.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: August 24, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

The EU and the US: a relationship in motion

Europe’s post-crisis recovery has been disappointing in comparison with the USA. But lower rates of inequality are staving off populism and bolstering support for globalisation. With the USA an increasingly unpredictable partner, the EU must address internal imbalances and build alliances to defend the multilateral order.

By: Maria Demertzis Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: July 28, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

The US retail crisis

What’s at stake: America is undergoing a retail sector crisis, partly related to the increase of competition from online commerce. We review recent contributions to this debate.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: July 17, 2017
Read article More by this author

Blog Post

How to make finance a force for sustainability

Traditional finance focuses on financial return, considering the financial sector separate from both society and the environment. In contrast, sustainable finance considers financial, social and environmental returns in combination. In a new essay, Dirk Schoenmaker provides a framework for sustainable finance highlighting the move from the narrow shareholder model to a broader stakeholder model. Here he presents the key arguments.

By: Dirk Schoenmaker Topic: Energy & Climate, Finance & Financial Regulation Date: July 12, 2017
Read article Download PDF More by this author

Essay / Lecture

Investing for the common good: a sustainable finance framework

Traditional finance focuses solely on financial return and risk. By contrast, sustainable finance considers financial, social and environmental returns in combination. This essay provides a new framework for sustainable finance highlighting the move from the narrow shareholder model to the broader stakeholder model, aimed at long-term value creation for the wider community. Major obstacles to sustainable finance are short-termism and insufficient private efforts. To overcome these obstacles, this essay develops guidelines for governing sustainable finance.

By: Dirk Schoenmaker Topic: Energy & Climate, Finance & Financial Regulation Date: July 11, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

The US 100% renewables dispute

What’s at stake: Two years ago, a debate started on whether it would be feasible for the US to achieve 100% renewable energy power. The arguments on both sides have been fierce, and more has been written recently. We review the debate.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Energy & Climate Date: June 26, 2017
Load more posts