Descendants of Northern Europeans Resisted Trump

The Republican presidential primaries revealed a divide between ethnic groups.

A small church in rural South Dakota, August 22, 2011
A small church in rural South Dakota, August 22, 2011 (Mark Plummer)

An interesting observation in The American Interest, where Michael Barone, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes that support for businessman Donald Trump in the Republican primaries broke down along ethnic lines.

Certain ethnic groups resisted Trump, he notes: Mormons, Dutch Americans in northwest and central Iowa and western Michigan, German- and Scandinavian Americans in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest states.

Others tilted toward Trump, including Italian Americans living in and around the New Yorker’s home state. Those areas of Florida with the largest number of migrants from New York and the Northeast also supported him.

Examining the returns, I argued that Trump fared poorly with those groups with large degrees of what scholars Charles Murray and Robert Putnam have called social connectedness or social capital and did very well with groups with low social connectedness. His percentages in Appalachia — from southwest Pennsylvania through Tennessee, northern Alabama and Mississippi — were especially large.

That’s the Greater Appalachia region where you’ll find what Walter Russell Mead has called Jacksonian Americans: descendants of the Scotch-Irish who now describe their ethnicity as simply “American” and who have historically been mistrustful of big business and big government alike.

American Nations

Map from the cover of Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (2011)
Map from the cover of Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (2011)

I’ve written about the Jacksonian support for Trump here before.

When it comes to those who opposed him, it’s worth revisiting Colin Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (2011).

He sees the states of New England as well as those parts of the Midwest that were largely settled by Northern European Protestants as one cultural unit: “Yankeedom”.

This region traditionally puts great emphasis on what Woodward describes as “perfecting earthly society through social engineering, individual self-denial for the common good and the aggressive assimilation of outsiders”; Murray’s and Putnam’s social connectedness. It is home to virtually all of America’s most prestigious schools and was the birthplace of progressivism. Today is largely supports the Democratic Party.

It’s perhaps unsurprising then that right-leaning voters in this part of the country would resist a populist and isolationist like Trump. He is the opposite of everything they believe politics should be about.

Click here to learn more about Woodard’s “American Nations” and how they shaped today’s political divides.