Nativism strong predictor of Republican partisanship

A quick follow-up to my various posts about the role of nativism is our current campaign discourse. It begs the question of why the Romney campaign would be using the “foreigner” frame in characterizing the president or his policies. From my perspective, it’s straightforward: Romney needs to turn out his partisan base to win the election, and the Republican base of the last few years has become increasingly nativist. (I define “nativist” to mean that you would agree with the following statement: “Our American way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence.”)

Here’s data from the 2011 Pew Political Typology survey:

  Low nativism High nativism
Democrats and leaners 66.6% 33.4%
Pure independents 57.8% 42.2%
Republicans and leaners 43.5% 56.5%
Total 55.9% 44.1%

Whereas only about a third of Democrats express nativist sentiments, more than half of Republicans do, and this number climbs nearly 10% when looking specifically at “strong” Republicans – the ones most likely to turn out to vote.

In a regression analysis (not shown), nativism predicts Republican partisanship, even controlling for gender, age, education, religiosity, race, and income. In fact, it’s a stronger predictor than gender, age, education, or income. Only race and religiosity are stronger predictors of Republican partisanship.

Notice here, though, that I’m not passing judgment on whether nativism is “good” or “bad,” simply that this can help explain why Romney has been so quick to emphasize Obama’s “foreignness” lately. 

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