In 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton to the American Presidency, winning the election with 48% of the national vote. His victory defied expert opinion and polling forecasts, leaving many to wonder what crucial elements they had missed when predicting its outcome. So, why did Americans vote for Donald Trump in the US election?
Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2016 because he spoke to their anxietiesShow moreShow less
Donald Trump mobilised the support of key demographics in the 2016 election by appealing to the values of the American Dream.
The "Make America Great Again" (MAGA) slogan used in US politics was popularised by Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign. Variations of the campaign phrase have also been used by Ronald Reagan in 1980 (“Let’s Make America Great Again”) and Bill Clinton in 1992. In his book, Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again, Trump frames his slogan and agenda as that of “American exceptionalism”. The ideology of American exceptionalism argues that the United States is unique from all other nations because it is based on the principles of liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, republicanism, democracy, and laissez-faire economics. Trump believed that America was no longer as great as it used to be and that through his leadership, he would be able to restore it to its former glory.
The slogan captured hope for Americans who believed the greatness of their country had been lost. It was simple and memorable and provided a beacon of hope for dissatisfied US citizens. America’s greatest time was in the past and had been under decline in recent decades as a result of deindustrialisation and international competition. Trump's supporters voted for him as they believed he would restore the country to its former greatness.
The MAGA slogan recalled a happier time in American history and sounded reassuringly patriotic to voters. It appealed to optimists, as well as to resentful voters who wished to go back to previous times.
The MAGA slogan has been accused of being "tone deaf" and alienating marginal communities including ethnic minority groups. For such communities, America has never been "great", and has improved massively for these groups in recent decades in terms of employment, home ownership, education and lowering crime rates.