Explaining Trump’s Support: What We Saw and Heard At His Campaign Rallies

Matthew J. Dickinson 1
  • 1 Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT, USA
Matthew J. Dickinson


More than a year after his surprise victory, scholars continue to debate why Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. Two explanations – economic anxiety and racial resentment – are commonly cited. Drawing on open-ended interviews with Trump supporters and observations at multiple Trump campaign rallies, we find that both explanations, as commonly presented, do not fully capture the dynamics underlying Trump’s support. Rather than racial animosity or concern over their personal economic status, we believe that Trump’s supporters were primarily focused on what they saw as an increasingly biased political and economic system that no longer rewarded hard work and playing by the rules.

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This journal provides a forum for professionally informed commentary on issues affecting contemporary American politics. This includes but is not limited to issues engaging parties, elections, and political participation; the news media, interest groups, Congress, the Presidency, and the Courts; trends in public finance, presidential popularity, congressional productivity; in contemporary, historical, or comparative perspective.