Why is his opposition to immigrants and Mexicans in particular so resonant when immigration liberalization ostensibly has majority support in most polls?
Research conducted by Lefteris Jason Anastasopoulos, a lecturer and data science fellow at Berkeley’s School of Information, provides one answer: Support for immigration “may be greatly overestimated.”
In an email, Anastasopoulos writes that
polls conducted by large survey organizations never ask about immigration in geographic context. Instead they ask questions about whether respondents support increasing immigration or granting amnesty for undocumented immigrants in the “United States” overall rather than, say, Dayton, Ohio, or Wilmington, North Carolina, places where immigration has been rapidly increasing over the past few years. This kind of abstract framing tends to push respondents toward giving more “politically correct” answers to standard poll questions about immigration.The result is
a significant underestimation of the backlash against newly arriving immigrants and an overestimation of the support for immigration among the public.The refusal of Democrats and the American left to hear — or to grant some legitimacy to — the grievances of white America as it loses power and stature to ascendant minorities and to waves of immigrants from across the globe undergirds the Trump movement. In the zero sum world of immigration politics, it has proved impossible so far to convincingly affirm the validity of the claims of both sides.
The quest by American liberals and progressives for support, or at least tolerance, of diversity, inclusiveness and multiculturalism is likely to prevail — particularly if the compulsory dimension of compliance is curtailed.
Jonathan Haidt, a professor at N.Y.U., suggested to me that one way to better understand the intensity of Trump’s appeal is by looking at something called “psychological reactance.” Haidt describes reactance as
the feeling you get when people try to stop you from doing something you’ve been doing, and you perceive that they have no right or justification for stopping you. So you redouble your efforts and do it even more, just to show that you don’t accept their domination. Men in particular are concerned to show that they do not accept domination.