The Effects of Trump’s Discourse: Changing Voter Attitudes or Activating Identities.
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INTRODUCTION A shocking one in four Americans say that they hate people of the opposing political party1. Animosity between United States political parties has grown so deep that people not only disagree with political opinions of the opposing party but are against their sons and daughters marrying people of the opposing party2. As Democrats and Republicans have become more extreme in their political views, they have difficulty treating people affiliated with the opposing party with respect. Party elites, the leaders of political parties in government, will frame ideas or policies through the lens of a group identity, making group identity a defining aspect of party affiliation. The focus on identity has caused the electorate to view those of the other party as racist, radical, or unpatriotic. Donald Trump’s rhetoric is a case of an elite-inspired shift in public attitudes that furthered the rift between Democrats and Republicans. As an elite member of the Republican political party, he spoke throughout his candidacy and presidency of the dangers illegal immigrants pose to American citizens and to the success of the country. His rhetoric served as a cue to Republicans of where to place their support. In this paper, I investigate how Trump’s rhetoric affected Democratic and Republican attitudes toward immigrants and explore the extent to which his rhetoric has created a further divide between Democrats and Republicans. I demonstrate that Republican opinion has not shifted in response to Trump’s discourse, but Democratic opinions became more liberal, leading to a wider division between the two parties and increased political polarization.
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