Donald Trump, Professional Wrestling, and the Electoral Geography of Vengeance and Redemption.

Authors: John Heppen*, University of Wisconsin, River Falls, David Beard, University of Minnesota Duluth
Topics: Political Geography, Social Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Electoral Geography, Donald Trump, Spatial Analysis
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


President, Donald Trump has a history of participation in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). His appearances were as a populist foil in contrast to the elitist owner of the WWE Vincent K McMahon. Scholars and observers have noted that Trump and his style of campaigning and governing borrows heavily from the world of professional wrestling. Wrestling has long had apocalyptic showdowns, where vengeance and justice are served to the satisfaction of wrestling’s historically, mostly white, male, working-class audience. Trump during his campaign for president derided his opponents with insults and lies. Trump employs a “wrestling rhetoric” where feuds are settled after months or years of conflict. Did appeals crafted for that audience help him in 2016? Attendance data was collected for WWE events for the 2015 and 2016. Voting data for the 2016 election for the same markets was collected. Spatial and statistical analysis revealed that attendance data over-predicted the Trump vote in the largest and coastal markets. Findings show that attendance as a ratio of the population was greater in smaller markets and there was a connection between attendance and Trump voting in some places. Attendance data best predicted the Trump vote in medium-sized markets in the Midwest and South. Enthusiasm existed for Trump in the Rustbelt of the American Manufacturing Belt. This suggests that in some markets anxiety over falling behind economically and socially buffeted by a wrestling rhetoric of redemption and vengeance contributed in a way to Trump’s appeal and victory.

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