Gone For Good: Deindustrialization, White Voter Backlash, and U.S. Presidential Voting (with Stephen Weymouth)
Globalization and automation contributed to US deindustrialization and the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs. Do these manufacturing layoffs affect voting in US presidential elections? We consider how deindustrialization may represent a unique social status threat, which leads to increases in anti-incumbent voting among whites. We use a shift-share instrumental variables strategy to estimate the causal effect of manufacturing layoffs on US presidential elections, 2008–2016, with county- and individual-level voting data. At the county level, voters penalize incumbents more for white worker layoffs than for non-white layoffs. At the individual level, white voters are more likely than non-whites to vote against incumbents where manufacturing layoffs are high. Exploring possible mechanisms, we find that white voters are more likely to associate manufacturing job losses with broader American decline. US deindustrialization appears to be central to the white voter backlash that culminated in the election of Donald Trump.