Ryan McConnell writes: The news that Donald Trump has won the U.S. presidency is still reverberating. With most pre-election polls suggesting a comfortable victory by Hillary Clinton, politicos and analysts are now looking for answers to some pretty basic questions. Even allowing for the gap between the popular vote and the Electoral College outcomes, it’s worth understanding what people missed.
At Kantar Futures we didn’t take a position on who would win the presidential election. But having studied the American population’s attitudes, values and priorities over the past five decades—and having fielded a nationally representative survey since 1971—we have some clues about the underlying sentiment that drove the election outcome last Tuesday. Here are three factors that played a critical role (all data are from the Yankelovich MONITOR annual survey).
More than any other factor, enough Americans wanted big, fundamental change to the status quo, no matter its form. Fed up with the insular views inside the Washington Beltway, and feeling stuck with years of slow growth and stagnation, they turned to Trump, the outside candidate who promised to shake up the system.
We’ve been tracking this phenomenon for quite some time, and it’s not one limited to national politics. In Kantar Futures’ July LIVE webcast, on the idea of “the fear of no change,” we noted that Americans of all stripes were yearning for disruption in many walks of life, increasingly intolerant of business as usual, and more hungry for risk. The free-wheeling and unpredictable Trump fulfilled these desires far more than his more cautious and guarded rival.
Chart 1: The desire for change
Tapping into cultural anxiety
Perhaps the most well-documented factor in Trump’s election victory was his success in getting white (non-Hispanic) Americans—particularly those in the working class—to vote for him over Clinton. One big reason why: His campaign tapped into this group’s rising cultural anxiety, a feeling increasing in tandem with the growth in ethnic minorities’ population, power and influence in society. As the following two data points indicate, a majority of white Americans feel their culture and place in society is being threatened while the power elite in society want to “level the playing field” in a way that would further harm their chances.
Chart 2: Perceptions of privilege
Chart 3: “The concerns of minorities”
Trump and “real talk”
Many Americans dismissed Trump’s campaign rhetoric as rude, offensive, demeaning and, at times, even racist. But many of Trump’s supporters found it a breath of fresh air—authentic “real talk” they could relate to and a bracing antidote to teleprompter-driven talking points commonplace in politics. Many Trump supporters were eager to cast a blow against the rise of political correctness—something they also saw as consistently reinforced by an out-of-touch news media that selectively elevates gaffes into grievances.
These are just three of the factors explaining Trump’s victory. We’ll be exploring the election result in more detail, as well as forecasting the expected impact of the Trump administration upon U.S. culture, the economy and race relations, in our December 13 webcast, “The 2016 Election: What’s Next for Marketers?,” hosted by Kantar Futures Executive Chairman J. Walker Smith. You can sign up here.
Ryan McConnell is a Senior Vice President at Kantar Futures. The photo of Donald Trump, by Gage Skidmore, is published under a Creative Commons license, and is used with thanks.