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


Lamont, Michèle, Bo Yun Park, and Elena Ayala-Hurtado. 2017. “Trump's Electoral Speeches and His Appeal to the American White Working Class”. British Journal of Sociology 68 (S1):S153-S180.


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.

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Last updated on 11/15/2017