I assume that by now everyone in the world has heard that Donald Trump thinks that the U.S. should not be admitting Muslims into the country. While every right-thinking person abhors this kind of xenophobia, it is obvious that the message hits home with many of his supporters. Trump supporters appear to be disproportionately, male, older, lower income, with less education. Importantly, they are not the most conservative politically, so it is not right-wing politics per se that drives their support. In many ways they support a population with characteristics of the US not unlike those into which Donald Trump was born right after the end of WWII. He is rich and well-educated (at least well-credentialed), but in the early post-WWII era--up to Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Immigration Act of 1965--the biggest demographic differences were white/black, and Protestant/Catholic. The rich were not that much richer than the rest of us, and the well-educated were much rarer than they are today. Immigrants were rare and those you saw were likely to be from eastern or southern Europe.
The combination of the baby boom and the end of the immigration quotas produced a demographic dividend that drove the US economy forward into the 21st century. That is coming to an end, and people are looking around for someone to blame. Enter xenophobia. According to 2014 American Community Survey data that I just downloaded and analyzed from IPUMS.org at the Minnesota Population Center, 78% of the US population aged 65+ is white non-Hispanic, but that drops to 71% for those aged 50-64 (a rough approximation to the boomers), 59% percent for those aged 30-49 (ages that were more affected by the ending of the immigration quotas), 56% at ages 18-29, and 52% at ages under 18. You probably don't need to look much farther than those numbers to know why there is at least some support for Trump, just as demographic changes in France have fueled anti-immigrant sentiment there.
There are roughly one million legal immigrants to the US each year, most of whom are not Muslim, but of course the mess in the middle east puts them front and center. I have been amazed the past few days at the exaggerated accounts of how many Muslims there are estimated to be in the US. The best estimate from Pew Research is about 3 million, well less than the 6-8 million that I have heard routinely mentioned in the media. Pew also estimates that only about 10 percent of immigrants to the US are Muslim. But, of course, if you want to raise a fuss, that's all you need, and Donald Trump obviously wants to raise a fuss.
This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.
If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org