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The Forum

A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics

Ed. by Disalvo, Daniel / Stonecash, Jeffrey

4 Issues per year

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Volume 14, Issue 4


Ideological Heterogeneity and the Rise of Donald Trump

Edward G. Carmines / Michael J. Ensley / Michael W. Wagner
Published Online: 2017-02-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/for-2016-0036


In the days after the 2016 election, a variety of explanations has been offered to explain Donald Trump’s unique ascendancy in American politics. Scholars have discussed Trump’s appeal to rural voters, his hybrid media campaign strategy, shifts in voter turnout, Hillary Clinton’s campaign advertising strategy, economic anxiety, differences in sexist and racist attitudes among Trump voters and so forth. Here, we add another key factor to the conversation: Trump’s appeal to a smaller, often ignored, segment of the electorate: populist voters. Building upon our previous work – demonstrating that while American political elites compete across a single dimension of conflict, the American people organize their attitudes around two distinct dimensions, one economic and one social – we use 2008 American National Elections Study (ANES) data and 2016 ANES primary election data to show that populist support for Trump, and nationalist policies themselves, help us to understand how Trump captured the Republican nomination and the White House.


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About the article

Edward G. Carmines

Edward G. Carmines is Distinguished Professor, Warner O. Chapman Professor of Political Science and Rudy Professor at Indiana University where he is also the Research Director at the Center on Representative Government and Director of the Center on American Politics. He has published more than 75 articles and chapters in edited books as well as a half dozen books including Issue Evolution (with James A. Stimson) and Reaching Beyond Race (with Paul M. Sniderman) both of which won the American Political Science Association’s Gladys M. Kammerer Award for Best Book in the Field of US National Policy. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Michael J. Ensley

Michael J. Ensley is an Associate Professor of political science at Kent State University. His research examines how candidates for and members of the US Congress respond to the competing demands of citizens, activists, interest groups and political parties. His work has appeared in outlets such as American Journal of Political Science, Political Analysis, Public Choice, American Politics Research, and American Behavioral Scientist.

Michael W. Wagner

Michael W. Wagner is an Associate Professor and Louis A. Maier Faculty Development Fellow in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is affiliated with the Department of Political Science and the La Follette School of Public Affairs. He has published work related to questions of political behavior and political communication in journals such as Journal of Communication, Annual Review of Political Science, Journalism and Communication Monographs, American Politics Research, Political Research Quarterly and is editor of the “Forum” in Political Communication, not to be confused with this fine journal.

Published Online: 2017-02-22

Published in Print: 2016-12-01

Citation Information: The Forum, Volume 14, Issue 4, Pages 385–397, ISSN (Online) 1540-8884, ISSN (Print) 2194-6183, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/for-2016-0036.

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