This is an excellent article, and highly recommended reading: A new study reveals the real reason Obama voters switched to Trump.
There were between six and nine million people who voted for Obama in 2012 but switched to Trump in 2016. Does that prove that, for those voters, economic issues were more important than racial issues? No, it does not.
One reason is that Obama’s second term featured a significant amount of racial conflict. The Black Lives Matter movement was founded in 2013. The 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and subsequent week of protest and unrest, kicked off a massive and racially polarizing national debate over police violence against African Americans.
A second reason is that Obama’s very presence in office was racially polarizing. Michael Tesler, a scholar at the University of California-Irvine, has documented in detail how Obama’s very presence in the White House polarized America along racial lines. It would make sense that this effect would grow stronger the longer Obama was in office, setting the stage for a major backlash in his final year.
Third, and arguably most importantly, the two candidates turned the election into a kind of referendum on American race relations. Trump kicked off his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and vowing to build a wall between the US and Mexico. He vowed to ban Muslims, and described black life in America as a hellscape of violence and poverty. Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign was not nearly so overt, which means it was less likely to attract voters who held latent racist and anti-immigrant attitudes.
Clinton, for her part, positioned herself as a champion of racial justice. While Obama’s rhetoric on race was typically post-racial, positioning the country as more united than divided, Clinton got out front on issues like police violence and immigration. There are plenty of valid reasons for this — Clinton was more worried about failing to turn out minority voters, Obama was more worried about alienating skittish whites, and there was no way to respond to Trump’s campaign without tackling race head-on.
The result, though, is that racial issues became the key political dividing line in a way they were not in either 2008 or 2012.
Please read the whole article.