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Trump's Electoral Speeches and His Appeal to the American White Working Class

Forthcoming, the British Journal of Sociology

48 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2017  

Michèle Lamont

Harvard University - Department of Sociology

Bo Yun Park

Harvard University

Elena Ayala-Hurtado

Harvard University

Date Written: November 7, 2017

Abstract

This paper contributes to the study of social change by considering boundary work as a dimension of cultural change. Drawing on the computer-assisted qualitative analysis of 73 formal speeches made by Donald Trump during the 2016 electoral campaign, we argue that his political rhetoric, which led to his presidential victory, addressed the white working classes’ concern with their declining position in the national pecking order.

He addressed their concern by raising the moral status of this group, that is, by:

1) emphatically describing them as hard working Americans who are victims of globalization;

2) voicing their concerns about ‘people above’ (professionals, the rich, and politicians);

3) drawing strong moral boundaries toward undocumented immigrants, refugees and Muslims;

4) presenting African American and (legal) Hispanic Americans as workers who also deserve jobs;

5) stressing the role of working class men as protectors of women and LGBTQ people.

This particular case study of cultural resonance provides a novel, distinctively sociological approach for capturing dynamics of social change.

Keywords: Recognition Gap, White Working Class, Moral Boundaries, 2016 US Presidential Election, Donald Trump

Suggested Citation

Lamont, Michèle and Park, Bo Yun and Ayala-Hurtado, Elena, Trump's Electoral Speeches and His Appeal to the American White Working Class (November 7, 2017). Forthcoming, the British Journal of Sociology. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3042691

Michèle Lamont (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Sociology ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Bo Yun Park

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Elena Ayala-Hurtado

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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