Sexism, racism, and nationalism: Factors associated with the 2016 U.S. presidential election results? Academic Article uri icon


  • After the generally unexpected outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, many explanations were proposed to account for the results. Three narratives that received a considerable amount of media attention were that sexist, racist, and/or nationalist attitudes influenced voting decisions. Some empirical work has supported each of these accounts. However, sexism, racism, and nationalism are interrelated, and most studies about the 2016 election have not examined these three factors in conjunction to determine the unique contribution of each. Thus, we investigated the extent to which each factor (assessed as sexism toward women, Modern Racism, and U.S. nationalism) was uniquely related to evaluations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, voting intentions, and actual voting behavior. Participants completed online questionnaires before (N = 489) and after (N = 192) the 2016 U.S. election. More positive evaluation of Clinton and intentions to vote for Clinton were associated with lower levels of Modern Racism. More positive evaluation of Trump was associated with greater sexism toward women, Modern Racism, and U.S. nationalism. Intent to vote for Trump was associated with greater sexism toward women and Modern Racism. However, only Modern Racism significantly predicted voting behavior. Greater Modern Racism was associated with greater likelihood of voting for Trump and lower likelihood of voting for Clinton. When considered in conjunction, Modern Racism was the most consistent predictor across the different election outcome variables. Sexism toward women and U.S. nationalism were generally not significantly related to evaluations, intentions to vote, or voting behavior when accounting for Modern Racism. Thus, our data indicate that Modern Racism was correlated with vote choice in the 2016 election.

publication date

  • January 1, 2020