Klara Dentler, Thomas Gschwend, David Hünlich
A swing vote from the ethnic backstage: The role of German American isolationist tradition for Trump’s 2016 victory

Electoral Studies, 2021: 71, (article no. 102309)
ISSN: 0261-3794

We question the growing consensus in the literature that European Americans behave as a homogenous pan-ethnic coalition of voters. Seemingly below the radar of scholarship on voting groups in American politics, we identify a group of white voters that behaves differently from others: German Americans, the largest ethnic group, regionally concentrated in the ‘Swinging Midwest’. Using county level voting returns, ancestry group information from the American Community Survey (ACS), current survey data and historical census data going back as early as 1910, we provide evidence for a partisan and a non-partisan pathway that motivated German Americans to vote for Trump in 2016: a historically grown association with the Republican Party and an acquired taste for isolationist attitudes that mobilizes non-partisan German Americans to support isolationist candidates. Our findings indicate that European American experiences of migration and integration still echo into the political arena of today.