New Working Paper: A Swing Vote from the Ethnic Backstage - The German American role in Donald Trump’s 2016 victory

By Klara Dentler, Thomas Gschwend and David Hünlich

We question the growing consensus in the literature that European Americans behave as a homogenous pan-ethnic coalition of voters. Seemingly below the radar of scholarship on voting groups in American politics, we identify a group of white voters that behaves differently from others: German Americans, the largest ethnic group, regionally concentrated in the ‘Swinging Midwest’. Using voting returns at the county level and leveraging ancestry group information from the US Census and the American Community Survey (ACS) we provide evidence for patterns that are not only related to partisanship but to characteristics which are particularly evident in the case of Donald Trump. German Americans traditionally support candidates with isolationist tendencies who challenge Washington as political outsiders. Other ethnic groups are far less attracted to these traits. Our findings indicate that European American experiences of migration and integration still echo into the political arena of today, and should be taken seriously.

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