The Donald Trump Phenomenon: Part 1: The American Nations
(This is also published at The Unz Review)
The 2016 U.S. presidential race has brought out a serious whirlwind of events, the likes of which haven’t been seen in a long time, if ever. Despite my own expectations for a boring campaign, this election cycle has been anything but. Most significant to this excitement has been the rise of Donald Trump – and, to a lesser extent, the rise of Bernie Sanders. Much has been said about these men, including much in an attempt to figure out what is behind their popularity. However, this election, particularly the battle against Trump, has taken on a larger scope, in ways that far exceed the man. The election is about grander issues. In good part, it is about the fate of the very character of the nation itself – and indeed, of all of Western society.
While there may be a perhaps an unprecedented series of events occurring in this election, there are nonetheless clear patterns to the vote, patterns we’ve seen before.
For one, the American nations (see American Nations Series) have played a large role in the 2016 presidential race. The reason for this, ultimately, is because demographic factors are what drives elections, at least in our era. Contrary to popular analysis (even that within the HBD sphere), the composition of a region’s population dictates said region’s vote – at least, much more so than situational factors such as economics, crime, or urbanicity. This is plainly obvious to the genetically informed, but is ignored by most mainstream discussion of politics. Mainstream sources struggle to find “environmental” factors that dictate the vote, and they run into trouble every time when they do.
None of this should be surprising, since we know that political views are highly heritable (from Hatemi et al, 2010):
There is minimal effect of “the environment” within cohorts (and the differences between cohorts is likely primarily situational). The way people vote is a reflection of who and indeed what they are. It has nothing to do with how they were raised by their parents, where they grew up, or where they live now (except to the extent current self-interest is involved). (See also The Behavioral Genetics Page, particularly the post The Son Becomes The Father.) To understand that vote, you must understand the people.
To quickly recap, the United States (and for that matter, Canada) is divided into several broad ethnocultural regions – nations if you will.
These regions exists thanks to the continuing legacy of the founding populations and the various assortative migrations (founder effects and boiling off) that have happened over the history of the country. This was described by Colin Woodard in his book American Nations. In my American Nations Series, I detail the various ways these nations are visible today as well as discuss their genetic roots.
In the present election cycle, the nations are playing a role. First, here is a map of support for Donald Trump across the country (from Nate Cohn).
Many have dubbed this an “east vs. west” split (as opposed to usual north/south split typically seen), but it isn’t really that, as Trump has modestly strong support near the West Coast. Rather, we see that Trump is strong across the usual “Dixie” nations, the Tidewater, the Deep South, and especially Greater Appalachia. He also has fair support across Yankeedom, but is comparatively weak in the Midlands. There is a pronounced “hole” in Trump’s support, but a look at this second map shows precisely where:
Trump is weak in the “Friendly & Conventional” zone of the country. This map is drawn from personality studies detailed in Rentfrow et al (2013). The “Friendly & Conventional” zone is an area high in extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness and depleted in openness to experience (see Predictions on the Worldwide Distribution of Personality). A modern popular notion likes to lump together the interior of the country as the “Flyover Zone”, being universally Christian, conservative, and traditional. But the American nations maps and this one clearly show that that idea is too simplistic. These areas do vote strongly Republican in the general presidential election, but there is much more nuance than that.
For one, there is a key difference in the overall composition. Greater Appalachia is composed heavily of Ulster Scots, originally from the Anglo-Scottish border area. The Deep South and the Tidewater derive from the English Cavaliers from southwest England.
By contrast, the “Friendly & Conventional” zone is heavily German and Scandinavian in ancestry. Furthermore, the area has been heavily “boiled-off,” as more liberal and adventurous individuals have fled the area for decades, leaving a core of traditional and conservative individuals in its wake (as detailed in my post More Maps of the American Nations). These conservatives are quite unlike their Southern counterparts (see Genes, Climate, and Even More Maps of the American Nations):
They vote overwhelmingly for Trump rival Ted Cruz (map from The New York Times):
Trump’s support in the Northeast seems to correlate to Italian areas:
Whether or not it is Italian-Americans – or people who live in areas with Italian-Americans – who are supporting Trump is not clear. (His stronghold in Eastern Massachusetts suggests he has considerable Irish-American support as well.)
On the Democratic side, again we see the American nations coming into play in the battle between Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The contest between Clinton and Sanders shows Bernie being particularly weak in the Dixie nations. But Sanders is particularly strong in the north, especially in Yankeedom, his current “home” nation.
There is clear north-south pattern to Clinton vs. Sanders, but the battle between these two is also literally a battle between Black and White.
Most of Bernie’s losses stem from his deep lack of support among Blacks.
But there is more going on here than just that. The map of Clinton vs. Sanders looks very similar to the map of Clinton vs. Obama back in 2008 (from here):
We see a clear north-south divide, even among non-Black voters. Bernie is strongest in the same areas Obama was, with the exception that he is not carrying the Black vote. However, there is more going on to the regional Clinton-Sanders split than just Black-White differences If we assume the pattern among White Democratic voters is similar to what it was in 2008, which is suggested by the current maps, we see Bernie is decidedly weak among White Democrats across the Dixie nations, and weak across much of the old Rust Belt (central Yankeedom/the Midlands).
Why is this the pattern? The reason is simple. Bernie Sanders, with his message of Scandinavian-style socialism appeals most strongly to very WEIRDO voters. As recounted in several of my previous posts, particularly The Rise of Universalism (see also Clannishness – the Series: Zigzag Lightning in the Brain for a key recap at the beginning of the post), people with a ancestry from Northwestern Europe are more likely to be oriented towards the “commonweal.” This is the notion that there should be societal institutions in place to serve the common good, on many levels. Democratic socialism is a natural outgrowth of that, as we see in Northwestern European countries and their offshoots. WEIRDO people are distinct from all other peoples in the world, and it is these people that make up Bernie Sanders’s base (which I get to see first hand here in Maine, as I live in a pretty WEIRDO part of the state).
In other parts of the country, more clannish Whites dominate. These are the Scots-Irish and the English Cavaliers in the South, as well as Irish, Italians, and various Eastern Europeans across parts of Yankeedom, the Midlands, and “New Netherland.” These peoples aren’t as impressed with Bernie’s calls for socialism – being more oriented to their own kin than to common society – and hence support Hilary Clinton.
Therefore, despite standing to benefit from Bernie Sanders’s socialist ideas, Blacks, especially those in the South don’t succumb to Bernie’s WEIRDO appeal (he may have more appeal with Blacks in the North).
And indeed, we see some interesting psychological differences between supporters of the various candidates:
1. Trump voters are no more authoritarian than supporters of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio
2. What really differentiates Trump’s voters from the other Republicans is the populism.
Trump voters are the only ones to score consistently high on all three populist dimensions. Cruz and Rubio’s supporters, for example, don’t express high feelings of anti-elitism. In fact, on this scale, they are strongly anti-populist, identifying with authority rather than rejecting it.
The psychology of Democratic voters also becomes apparent. In many ways, Bernie Sanders’s supporters are the mirror image of Trumps, except for the anti-elitism. Where Trump’s supports are nationalists, Bernie’s supporters are universalists. They rail against the elites much like the American revolutionaries railed against the English crown and the aristocracy. (And no doubt this is why Bernie doesn’t stress his own previous anti-immigration views during his campaign.)
Edit, 3/12/16 [I also wanted to touch on another aspect of Trump’s support that has come up frequently. That is that Trump’s support correlates with where middle aged White death rates are highest.
From Death predicts whether people vote for Donald Trump – The Washington Post. Of course, an explanation for this is easily produced, and it partly captured in a recent article of geographic correlates of Trumps’s support:
This is from The Geography of Trumpism – The New York Times. The key is those lacking a high school diploma. As we saw in my earlier post IQ and Death, people (and peoples) with lower IQ tend to die sooner. Many of the areas rich with Trump supporters are lower IQ working class area. These areas are depleted of higher IQ individuals (many often more liberal and WEIRD and often have left for the cities). In essence, these areas are boiled down – areas bereft of human capital. This explains both the poor economic prospects and the shorter lifespans.
As well, there is an ethnic component. As we saw, Trump’s support is strong with the Scots-Irish, and many of the above correlates are those of Scots-Irish areas. As we saw in my earlier posts HBD is Life and Death and More Maps of the American Nations, Scots-Irish areas of the country have shorter lifespans and a greater incidence of problems such as prescription drug overdoses.
What these people have discovered, again, is the American nations. ***End Edit***]
All of these regional differences, however, will mostly collapse to the usual American nations regional differences in the general election.
It is the precise balance in the close contest states that will determine the winner.
Pundits will continue to make predictions about politics (especially about geographic patterns) and will continue to be wrong because they do not take regional genetic diversity (even among Whites) into account.
In the next part, I will discuss the rancor surrounding the presidential election and the Trump candidacy, and the deeper issue behind it all.