Populism is More than Hysteria: A Selective Review of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

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Watts, Caleb
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Immigration and foreign efficiency have increased domestic labor market competition and displaced native workers. Populist rhetoric identifies immigrants, outsourcing, and trade deficits as the causes for voter’s socioeconomic anxieties. This populist rationale gained political traction in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The support from voters for a populist candidate, who would win the election, has a tendency to place a hysteria label upon these voters. Critics of populism have charged these voters with acting irrationally given the long-term, beneficial impacts of globalization for workers in the U.S. This study questions these charges by developing a spatially weighted regression to predict, at the county level, the proportion of populist votes in the 2016 U.S. general election. The results suggest that voters in support of the populist candidate viewed protectionism as a reasonable solution to their immediate economic needs and concerns. Such a conclusion lifts the hysteria label and replaces it with sympathetic views for populist voters in 2016.
populism, populist, irrational voter, election, democracy, globalization