The Racial and Economic Context of Trump Support: Evidence for Threat, Identity, and Contact Effects in the 2016 Presidential Election

Eric D. Knowles, Linda R. Tropp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Donald Trump’s ascent to the Presidency of the United States defied the expectations of many social scientists, pundits, and laypeople. To date, most efforts to understand Trump’s rise have focused on personality and demographic characteristics of White Americans. In contrast, the present work leverages a nationally representative sample of Whites to examine how contextual factors may have shaped support for Trump during the 2016 presidential primaries. Results reveal that neighborhood-level exposure to racial and ethnic minorities predicts greater group threat and racial identification among Whites as well as greater intentions to vote for Trump in the general election. At the same time, however, neighborhood diversity afforded Whites with opportunities for intergroup contact, which predicted lower levels of threat, White identification, and Trump support. Further analyses suggest that a healthy local economy mutes threat effects in diverse contexts, allowing contact processes to come to the fore.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-284
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018



  • Donald Trump
  • White identification
  • diversity
  • intergroup contact
  • threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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