University of New Hampshire
Political Science and International Affairs
Mentor: Dr. Dante Scala, Department of Political Science
Analyzing Right-Wing Populism in Rural New Hampshire: A Look the 2016 Presidential Election
Donald Trump’s successful candidacy during the 2016 presidential election revealed a potential shift throughout American politics: the resurgence of right-wing populism. With proposals establishing tariffs for foreign products and deportations of illegal immigrants, Trump invoked intense nationalism during his campaign while conveying messages of anti-elitism and economic justice for struggling workers. Rural voters supplied part of the core of Trump’s voter base; has right-wing populism become more prevalent in rural areas? Right wing populism can best be defined as an intensely nationalistic ideology, tending to support strong national border security and protections for domestic industry. To help understand how right-wing populism appealed to rural areas, it is necessary to study rural counties that flipped from supporting Obama in 2012 to supporting Trump in 2016. In doing so, one can uncover how right-wing populism may have become the dominant political force in rural areas. Through a series of qualitative interviews, using the snowballing technique to gain a large and diverse sample, it will be possible to establish the perspectives of voters in rural swing counties, particularly parts of Hillsborough and Coos counties. The two counties had voted for Obama in 2012, but switched to narrow Trump wins during 2016. By interviewing activists and politicians within the two counties, it will be possible to piece together common narratives that may reveal that right-wing populism has become prevalent in rural communities. After concluding the interview process, it is apparent that rural swing voters were motivated by varied economic or cultural reasons in their support of Donald Trump. The reluctance of former Bernie Sanders voters to support Hillary Clinton also greatly impacted her ability to perform well in rural counties. County and town specific voting data are being used to contextualize the qualitative findings.