Underrepresented College Students and the Trump Presidency

Albright, Jamie, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hurd, Noelle, AS-Psychology, University of Virginia

The entrance of the Trump administration may have been particularly concerning to underrepresented college students attending predominately white institutions (PWIs), who may face social identity- or class-related discrimination and barriers to achievement. The studies comprising this dissertation centered on investigating associations among distress related to the Trump presidency, activism, social support, and mental health. Participants were 340 underrepresented college students at a PWI who completed surveys in the fall of their first year at the university (Fall 2013) and each spring thereafter until Spring 2017. Results of the first study indicated that holding multiple targeted marginalized identities produced greater levels of Trump-related distress. Trump-related distress was associated with increases (relative to previous trajectories) in anxiety but not depressive symptoms. The second study tested a three-way interaction between Trump-related distress, activism, and peer support. Results suggested that Trump-related distress and activism contributed to heightened anxiety, while peer support did not serve as a protective factor. In the third study, results suggested that feeling personally affected by the Trump presidency conditioned associations among emotional responses and activism. For those who did not feel personally affected by the Trump presidency, anger predicted more frequent collective action, and sadness predicted less frequent higher-accessibility activism. Fear predicted more frequent collective action among those who felt personally affected by the presidency. Taken together, the findings of this dissertation suggest that the Trump presidency is a stressor that may threaten the wellbeing of underrepresented college students, particularly those who hold marginalized identities targeted by his rhetoric and policies. Underrepresented college students may require institutional resources and supportive structures to inoculate them against the potential harm of the Trump presidency.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
underrepresented college students, sociopolitical distress, activism
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