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Gone For Good: Deindustrialization, White Voter Backlash, and US Presidential Voting

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 March 2021

McGill University
Georgetown University
Leonardo Baccini, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, McGill University, and Research Fellow at CIREQ,
Stephen Weymouth, Associate Professor and Marano Faculty Fellow, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University,


Globalization and automation have contributed to deindustrialization and the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs, yielding important electoral implications across advanced democracies. Coupling insights from economic voting and social identity theory, we consider how different groups in society may construe manufacturing job losses in contrasting ways. We argue that deindustrialization threatens dominant group status, leading some white voters in affected localities to favor candidates they believe will address economic distress and defend racial hierarchy. Examining three US presidential elections, we find white voters were more likely to vote for Republican challengers where manufacturing layoffs were high, whereas Black voters in hard-hit localities were more likely to vote for Democrats. In survey data, white respondents, in contrast to people of color, associated local manufacturing job losses with obstacles to individual upward mobility and with broader American economic decline. Group-based identities help explain divergent political reactions to common economic shocks.

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

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