Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton has left political pundits and analysts looking for answers to some basic questions. Even allowing for the gap between the popular vote and the Electoral College outcomes, it’s worth understanding what people missed.
Kantar didn’t take a position on who would win the election, but we have studied the American population’s attitudes, values and priorities over the past five decades. As a result, we have some clues about three factors that likely played a critical role in the outcome.
Enough Americans wanted big, fundamental change to the status quo, no matter its form. Voters were fed up with the insular views inside the Washington Beltway, and feel stuck with years of slow growth and stagnation. Trump's outsider status and promise to shake up the system proved alluring.
We’ve been tracking this phenomenon for quite some time, and it’s not limited to national politics. In Kantar’s July webcast on the idea of “the fear of no change,” we noted that Americans 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.
2. Exploiting cultural anxiety
Perhaps the most well-documented factor in Trump’s election victory was his success in capturing white (non-Hispanic) Americans — particularly those in the working class. 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 look to “level the playing field” in a way that would further harm their chances at getting ahead.
And 65% of whites also agree that “I worry that the values and spirit that made America great are being eroded by outside cultural influences.”
3. Trump's "real talk"
Trump’s supporters found his brash rhetoric to be a breath of fresh air — “real talk” they could relate to and an antidote to teleprompter-driven talking points. They were eager to strike a blow against the rise of political correctness -- something they also saw as consistently reinforced by an out-of-touch media that selectively elevates gaffes into grievances.
Our data has been derived from the U.S. Yankelovich MONITOR study, fielded online in March-April 2016 among a nationally representative sample of 10,000 respondents ages 18 and older.