The Antithesis of Well-Being: The Mentality and Behaviors of White Working-Class since the 1970s

Huan Guo, Sichuan University

In the 2016 American presidential election, the national polls did not fail. The state-level polls, however, especially those in battleground states, such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio, underestimated Republican Donald Trump’s support among the white working class without a college degree and made a series of polling errors. A profound sense of status anxiety underlay the white working class’ support for Trump. Since the 1970s, affected by “deindustrialization”, the economic, political and social status of the white working class has been declining, getting them into a kind of intangible status anxiety. Together with the lack of recognition of dignity, their sense of status anxiety deepened. In response to such status anxiety, they, to some degree, revived the “white nativism”. Specifically, they adhered to the liberty, equality, and individualism of the American Creed and held negative attitudes toward immigration, welfare program, and minority groups, which gradually ran counter to the political stands of the Democratic Party. All of those cultural and social factors caused the polling failure of battleground states polls in the 2016 presidential election. Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches, this thesis takes the so called “failing” polls in the 2016 American presidential election as a starting point and undertakes a thorough analysis of the changed pattern in the distribution of power and prestige which has resulted in the status anxiety of the white working class. This strenuous endeavor is beneficial to strengthen the understanding of the conflicts among political, economic and cultural forces in the wake of the “deindustrialization” around the 1970s in the United States on the one hand; it, to a certain extent, can be conductive to the research on “whiteness” and class in the process of studying American group cultural consciousness on the other hand.

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 Presented in Session 13. Race, Class, and Labor Market Inequality