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Activating Animus: The Uniquely Social Roots of Trump Support

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 June 2021

Johns Hopkins University, United States
University of Mississippi, United States
New York University, United States
Lilliana Mason, Associate Research Professor, SNF Agora Institute and Department of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University, United States,
Julie Wronski, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Mississippi, United States,
John V. Kane, Assistant Professor, Center for Global Affairs, New York University, United States,


Partisanship in American politics is inextricably linked with social identities, and sentiments toward party-aligned groups affect political orientations. However, out-group animosity may operate differently depending on the party or elite. We investigate the extent to which citizens’ animus toward (Democratically aligned) minority groups drove political support for Donald Trump, whose incendiary rhetoric regarding such groups is unique in modern presidential politics. Leveraging panel data beginning before Trump’s candidacy, we find that animus toward Democratic-linked groups in 2011 predicts future support for Trump regardless of party identity. This animus does not predict future support for other Republican or Democratic politicians or either party. Nor do we find that animus toward Republican groups predicts support for Democratic elites. Trump’s support is thus uniquely tied to animus toward minority groups. Our findings provide insights into the social divisions underlying American politics and the role of elite rhetoric in translating animus into political support.

© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association

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