Voters who lost jobs to foreign competition tended to sup port Trump but so

Voters who lost jobs to foreign competition tended to

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Voters who lost jobs to foreign competition tended to sup- port Trump, but so also did groups such as older white males who lost status in the culture wars that date back to the 1970s and involved changing values related to race, gender, and sexual preference. Alan Abramowitz of Emory University has shown that racial resentment was the single strongest predic- tor for Trump among Republican primary voters. But the economic and cultural explanations are not mutually exclusive and Trump explicitly connected these issues by arguing that illegal immigrants were taking jobs from American citizens. The symbolism of building a wall along America’s southern border was a useful slogan for uniting his base around these issues. That is why he finds it so hard to give up. Populism is likely to continue in the United States as long as jobs are lost to robotics (not just trade), and cultural change continues to be divisive. The lesson for policy elites who support globalization and an open economy is that they will have to pay more attention to issues of economic inequality as well as adjustment as- sistance for those disrupted by change, both domestic and foreign. Attitudes toward immigration improve as the econo- my improves, but it remains an emotional cultural issue. In a Pew survey, in 2015, 51 percent of U.S. adults said immigrants strengthened the country, while 41 percent believed they were a burden, compared to 39 percent be- lieving immigrants were strengthening the country and 50 percent viewing them as a burden in mid-2010, when the effects of the Great Recession were at their peak. Immigration is a source of America’s comparative advantage, but political leaders will have to show that they are able to manage the nation’s borders if they wish to fend off nativist attacks, particularly in times and places of economic stress. The issue is immigration. BENJAMIN M. FRIEDMAN William Joseph Maier Professor of Political Economy, Harvard University, and author, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth (2006) O ne of the most striking regularities in how economic growth or its absence has historically affected a na- tion’s society and politics is the tendency for stag- nating incomes to foster antipathy toward immigrants. In one country after another, opposition to immigration and negative attitudes toward recent arrivals have typically emerged as the leading edge of public reaction to peri- ods when significant segments of the population have lost any sense of progress in their living standards, and lost too their optimism that the progress they once knew will resume. Because immigrants from abroad often profess religions different from that of the native-born population, these anti-immigrant sentiments often emerge as religious prejudice as well.
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