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Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  334 ratings  ·  49 reviews
A gripping, in-depth account of the 2016 presidential election that explains Donald Trump's historic victory

Donald Trump's election victory stunned the world. How did he pull it off? Was it his appeal to alienated voters in the battleground states? Was it Hillary Clinton and the scandals associated with her long career in politics? Were key factors already in place before
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published October 30th 2018 by Princeton University Press (first published October 23rd 2018)
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Conor Ahern
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book summarily puts to bed the canard that the 2016 Election was about "economic anxiety," and pretty convincingly demonstrates that Trump succeeded because of his ability to activate the racist and xenophobic anxieties of people, aided by a bunch of freak factors that mostly aligned in his favor. Never straying too far from the data, the authors show that people were not really motivated by their concerns about their jobs or the state of their retirement accounts, but by their racist and x ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, ebook-owned
Quite dry, but a fascinating read that uses statistical analysis and solid political science to break down some common myths about why things went down the way they did in 2016. Kind of scary, but I choose to see the places of hope where we can grow as a country
Nov 10, 2018 rated it liked it
If you’ve been following polls and news articles and think pieces about 2016, this won’t be news to you. Spoiler: racism and not economic anxiety. Also, sexism. This is more of a play by play of the election with a lot of numbers heavy studies. The end chapter is interesting where it covers shifting identities (i.e. Latino men not voting for Hillary). I had high hopes after hearing them on Ezra Klein’s show but I’m going back to my moratorium on not reading any more about the 2016 election! That ...more
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Rather than debate the economy, Trump and Clinton debated American identity"

In my opinion this book offers the clearest explanation on how Trump won the 2016 presidential election while losing the popular vote. Sides, Tesler, and Vavreck argue that Trump and Clinton both activated voters' identities and that activation helped Trump more than Clinton. They state that Trump's rhetoric and candidacy activated whites without a college degree who held views on racial, ethnic, and religious minoritie
Jack Wolfe
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I need to keep a copy of this book in a holster, so I can use it to slap anyone in my vicinity who says, oh...

"The 2016 election was about economic anxiety."

"Trump offered change to an angry electorate."

"Clinton would've won if she hadn't dismissed rural voters."

"The Democratic Party needs to do some serious soul-searching before 2020, get out of their bubble, learn how to speak to non-elites again, etc etc etc."

We've all heard many narratives of the 2016 Electoral Tragedy, and many are founded
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
THIS is the one book to read about the 2016 election. Thankfully, political scientists have increasingly embraced the idea of writing for larger audiences. And these three authors have written a powerful book. They come across as fair and thorough, and bring in all the relevant data and references necessary to bolster their narrative. People on the right will not care to realize that race was more relevant and helpful to Trump than the stories they like to tell of the working man who is economic ...more
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After the 2016 election I was stunned and angry. I have been reading and learning to understand how Hillary lost. Everyone has opinions and conjectures. But I am the annoying type who keeps questioning, "I understand your conjecture. But is it true?"

I find this book very persuasive in its conclusions regarding the 2016 election. It explores practically every relevant explanation of what happens such as "economic anxiety", "partisanship", and uses data from polls, surveys, attitude studies, etc.
Sasha Mircov
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
Ezra Klein was right when is said the book was one of the most anticipated accounts of the 2016 election. The conclusion: it was the crisis of racial and ethnic identity that elected Trump. The thesis is not new. It was put forward by other researchers, including Seth Stephens-Davidowitz in his in-depth analysis of racially charged Google search terms during Obama's presidency and detailed in the book "Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. ...more
This one took me a long time to get through...
It was quite dry, and steeped in graphs and polls and dense data, enough that I kept wondering-- who is it who takes these polls? Can I trust this info, since I've never taken one of these polls?

And, while I liked a lot of the setup, the turn it took-- essentially stated that if you voted for Trump, you're probably a racist, and here's the stats to prove it. And it's true, I don't think we've ever had a president who ran on a platform of whiteness i
Robert Gustavo
This really shows that we need a nonfiction form between magazine article and three hundred and fifty page book. There is a really good 150 pager in here, which just needs a good editor to bring it out.

But, who is going to buy a 150 page thing? There’s no market for it. And it’s easier to write 350 pages than 150.

I got bored. I put the book down. I’m not likely to pick it up again.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Only eye opening if you were someone lost to priviledge and made it through the 2016 cycle blindfolded by "politics as usual." It's a good read if you are unfamiliar with the arena or the long game conservative strategy of default (white) identity politics. Four stars for it being more tolerable than Game Change. ...more
Anuradha Pandey
If you truly want to understand 2016, this is one book you can't miss. This provided the most data driven explanations I've seen for all the trends that fed into the election of trump, and debunks a lot of myths that surround his election and the Democratic primary. ...more
Daniel Cunningham
I liked this book in many ways, though my feeling is it's a 3.5 star read, not really a 4 star. Reasons: turns out, people who voted for Trump had reservoirs of animus (or at least distrust, doubts, etc.) toward black people, Muslims, and immigrants, especially Latino immigrants. Surprise, surprise. But, in addition, it turns out they were *not* (primarily) motivated by economic concerns. There were two (large) contending theories about Trump's victory, and this book seems to shoot down the "it ...more
Wendy (bardsblond)
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-nonfiction
This book recounts, painfully, the events leading up to the 2016 Presidential Election, and persuasively disabuses readers that Donald Trump's election can be explained away by "economic anxiety." In essence, Trump's supporters are not particularly poor. Their incomes are average and there is no evidence that they are hard-pressed economically. Rather, it is the perception that their "group" is suffering that led to the outcome of Trump being elected. In essence, Trump exploited the fear of the ...more
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: socsci
The book is an analysis of the causes of the 2016 election outcome. It argues that group identity was the main driver of voting preferences and not economic anxiety. To the extent that the latter mattered, it was filtered through group identity. So voters less angry about losing jobs than the perception that they lost jobs to immigrants. The strength of the book is that it is based on data and analysis, and not just the pontifications of so-called experts. The strongest evidence relates to surve ...more
Alex Golub
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book uses polling data to explain how Donald Trump was elected in 2016. Many of its findings confirm what most people already know: for instance, that the larges field in the Republican primaries helped Trump. But the authors also come down on contested topics as well: Trump voters were motivated by racial affiliation rather than economic anxiety -- or rather, that they viewed economic issues through the lens of race, creating what the authors call "racialized economics", that Clinton's gen ...more
Ethan Gardner
If you’re looking to know what was behind the 2016 election, this book is the best resource. It compiles mountains of research and data in a highly readable 220 pages to explain what factors put Trump in the White House. Taking on the debate over whether economic or racial anxiety was the force behind Trump’s support, the authors find a resounding conclusion: Attitudes on racial, ethnic, and religious identity, in addition to partisanship, were the top factors in vote choice in 2016, while the a ...more
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sides, Tesler, and Vavreck put together a brilliant and very thorough examination of the 2016 election, and make a very convincing case that the election brought identity-based issues to the forefront of the campaign, and that those issues became the most decisive factor in the election's outcome. The three authors make their case by putting forth, then debunking, alternative explanations for Trump's victory. In doing so, they dispel several commonly-held "truths" about the election (including a ...more
Anthony Friscia
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The tl;dr of this book is that Trump won in 2016 with mostly the same people who typically vote Republican plus more racists.
The longer version is, Trump managed to invigorate the racist tendencies among many voters, especially on the right, and did so enough in a few key places, that he was able to squeak out an electoral win despite losing the popular vote. There was no ‘economic anxiety’ among his voters, except through the lens of racial identity. Many of the people that voted for him were a
Kevin Whitaker
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: policy
I understand this to be the best "political science" study of the 2016 election, and it felt that way while reading. Certainly an academic-feeling book but it wasn't too dry.

Three things I learned:
1. The two defining trends of the 2016 election: a) the long-term trend of increasing party loyalty (and especially hostility toward the other party); and b) the short-term trend of increasing partisan sorting by racial attitudes (started earlier but accelerated in the Obama years, then reinforced by T
Vikram X
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The toxic partisan vitriol unleashed in 2016 campaign now threatens to fracture one of the greatest nations ; how the people were coerced to view every issue through a racial prism of hate , “us vs them” view ; not just by the candidates but also by the media , driving the national discourse to a new low of anti - intellectualism never seen before on such a platform .

This is one of the best books on this subject which tries to reconcile with the conclusion using multiple polling research data to
Jeremy Sykes
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I cannot imagine anyone writing a more comprehensive, persuasive, or definitive account of the 2016 election. While some of the social science presented herein fit my preconceived notions (Trump activated racial preference in whites, many of whom viewed Muslims negatively and thought whites were targets of discrimination), other information was new and revelatory (Clinton's ground game in swing states didn't cost her the election, Russia didn't swing things, and the Comey letter's effect was neg ...more
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent careful work on why Trump won.

It is data driven, and yet well written.

It makes a powerful argument that for all the dismissal of identity politics by the GOP, they actually are playing a very skillful game of identity politics. It's just invisible to many observers because it is white identity that is at stake.

This is fine political science with vivid real world applicability.
James Sheaves
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
All the best, most rigorous takes on the currents and forces underlying the 2016 election are contained herein. At this point, three years later, it's highly likely that most political junkies will have already absorbed most of these takes, making the book of marginal novelty, but in the event that one isn't fully up to speed, or needs disabusing of some of the more pernicious myths of 2016 (economic anxiety!) then this book is a one stop shop in a class of its own. ...more
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A remarkably good, insightful book. Well written, well documented, not nearly as dry as you would expect from a statistically-based book but with the analytical chops those statistics bring to support the authors’ conclusions.

Well worth reading if you are at all interested not just about what happened in 2016, but in some ways even more importantly...what may happen next.
Andrew York
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
(Audiobook)- Good postmortem of the 2016 election. Uses a lot of data to argue what what news coverage has already seems to indicate- that the primary drive converting white, working class voters without a college degree was race and immigration.

Really interesting (and concerning) book, but starts an important conversation
Shirl Kennedy
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Nothing groundbreaking here, but a good synthesis of socioeconomic-political research on how and why the country became so polarized. Authors maintain that the 2016 election was all about "identity," and those with less favorable attitudes toward race and immigration became a potent voting block. Depressing somewhat. About half of the book is a minutely detailed appendix. ...more
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Informative (if dry) explanation of the factors that led to Trump’s victory. They’re skeptical of the argument that Trump voters were motivated by economic anxieties. Rather, anxieties over race, ethnicity, and religion were far more salient factors. Also, tribal loyalties led traditional Republicans to support him despite their personal distaste.
Christopher Mitchell
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A deep data-driven look into an election that most of us have strong feelings about, many of which are actually contradictory. Highly recommended to see what issues really moved the needle and how far.
Bob Buice
Apr 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Well researched and highly informative, but difficult to read. Too much statistical data. However, it might give you an idea how a mysoginistic, narcissistic, dishonest, raving lunatic such as Donald Trump became president.
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