“You can ask just one simple question to find out whether someone likes Donald Trump more than Hillary Clinton: Is Barack Obama a Muslim? If the answer is yes, 89 percent of the time that person will have a higher opinion of Trump than Clinton.” So began an analysis of results from the 2016 American National Election Study (ANES) pilot survey by James S. Sherman Professor of Government Philip Klinkner published by Vox. The June 2 article is titled The easiest way to guess if someone supports Trump? Ask if Obama is a Muslim.

“My analysis indicates that economic status and attitudes does little to explain support for Donald Trump,” continued Klinkner. “That’s more accurate than asking if it’s harder to move up the income ladder than it was for their parents (54%), whether they oppose trade deals (66%), or if they think the economy is worse now than last year (81%). It’s even more accurate than asking them if they are a Republican (87%).”

Most pundits have pinned Trump’s appeal to the economic anxieties of working class whites, but Klinkner proved these theories wrong throughout his essay. He showed that support for Trump “is rooted in animosity and resentment toward various minority groups, especially African-Americans,immigrants, and Muslims,” based on the data.

Other findings in Klinkner’s essay included:

  • Racial resentment is a more important predictor of Trump support than economic insecurity. Neither income nor economic pessimism has a statistically significant impact on evaluations of Clinton vs. Trump. On the other hand, those who think the economy is worse now than a year ago and those opposed to free trade agreements are more likely to support Trump and these results are statistically significant.
  • Those who think the word "violent" describes Muslims well, and those who believe that President Obama is a Muslim have much more positive attitudes of Trump compared to Hillary Clinton.
  • Attitudes towards increasing or decreasing legal immigration, however, do not have a statistically significant impact, a rather surprising finding given Trump’s attacks on undocumented immigrants and promise to build a border wall.
  • The more strongly someone approves of President Obama, the more positive their evaluation of Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. 

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