Date of Degree

9-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Sociology

Advisor

Richard Alba

Committee Members

Maria Asbascal

Philip Kasinitz

Mary Clare Lennon

Subject Categories

Demography, Population, and Ecology | Migration Studies | Race and Ethnicity

Keywords

demographic change, immigration policy, racism, Donald Trump, populism, public opinion

Abstract

Growing racial/ethnic diversity has undoubtedly made a major social and political impact in many localities across the United States in recent times. Various studies have addressed local reactions to this demographic change, most commonly highlighting backlash among the White population. This dissertation takes an in-depth look at the impact of these demographic changes on several key outcomes: the 2016 presidential election, White attitudes toward immigration policy, and perceptions of racism among racial/ethnic minorities that may emerge as a result of White backlash. These studies are careful to examine particular subsamples that may be more or less susceptible to backlash or its knock-on effects, adding nuance to our understanding of the processes behind these relationships. I also contribute methodologically by using analytical techniques that address the fact that where rapid demographic change is most likely to occur is not random, thus arriving at quasi-causal estimations of the impact of demographic change on the outcomes described above.

I find increased Trump voting in counties that underwent a rapid increase in the Hispanic population prior to the 2016 election, providing evidence that Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Latinx appeals were highly effective in these places, particularly in “new” Latinx destinations. Further analysis of the “swing” states, however, leaves uncertainty about the actual impact of demographic change on the election results. I also find that U.S.-born Whites in counties undergoing rapid Hispanic growth have more negative immigration attitudes, but only among certain groups: those with lower levels of education, political Independents, and those whose household incomes have decreased in the past year. These results specifically highlight that backlash to demographic change should likely be considered a group-specific phenomenon. Lastly, I find evidence that, among Hispanics and Blacks, backlash to demographic change may lead to increased perceptions of racism.

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