Who are the Trump voters?

Donald-Trump-CartoonJust about every pundit has tried to answer the question “Who are these people who support Donald Trump?”

The lazy media villagers reflexively resort to asserting that they are the economically distressed and angry white working class, with the laziest among them even asserting that they include “Reagan Democrats” (all of whom are already dead or barely alive in a nursing home).

Pollsters try to tell us that they are the white working class with less than a high school education and who are politically alienated. Republicans Rocked By Revelation That Trump Supporters Aren’t Registered And Don’t Vote.

There is also the recent book from J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, that is, a crisis in the decline of the white working class culture and values. Review: In ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’ a Tough Love Analysis of the Poor Who Back Trump (Economic insecurity, he’s convinced, accounts for only a small part of his community’s problems; the much larger issue is hillbilly culture itself. Though proud of it in many ways, he’s also convinced that it “increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.”)

Martin Longman at the Political Animal blog takes a look at The Real Trump Voters:

Simon Maloy at Salon does a good job of distilling the new Gallup data on Trump voters. They aren’t exactly who most people think they are. They’re not as economically distressed or negatively impacted by the loss of manufacturing jobs as is widely assumed, and they’re often more suburban than rural. Counterintuitively, “Gallup found that the only candidate who is viewed consistently positively in areas with higher concentrations of manufacturing jobs is… Hillary Clinton.”

And:

“People living in commuting zones with higher white middle-aged mortality rates are much more likely to view Trump favorably,” Gallup found. The analysis also noted people who live areas that have less “intergenerational mobility” also tend to have higher levels of support for Trump. Basically, if you’re in an area where white people are experiencing consistently poor health outcomes and younger generations are having less success at moving up the economic ladder, then you’re more likely to want to vote for Donald Trump.

Of course, we all know that race plays a major part in Trump’s appeal, but, again, not in the “a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality” kind of way. Trump voters are indeed overwhelmingly white, but they are not generally whites who have had negative experiences with minority crime or even much direct employment competition with immigrants of color.

What Gallup found is that one of the strongest indicators of Trump support is racial isolation: “Constant support for Trump is highly elevated in areas with few college graduates, far from the Mexican border, and in neighborhoods that stand out within the commuting zone for being white, segregated enclaves, with little exposure to blacks, Asians, and Hispanics.”

In other words, white people who live in segregated white suburban communities are much more alarmed about demographic change (the browning of America) than white people who live and work in pluralistic communities. This raises a chicken/egg nurture/nature question, because we don’t know if people gravitate to these communities because of their dislike and fear of minorities or if it’s primarily their racial isolation that breeds misunderstanding and mistrust. What we can be pretty sure about, though, is that they don’t want their communities to change or grow more diverse. They like things the way they are or that they were in the recent past. To them, the “Real” America is the homogeneous America they experience in their day-to-day lives, and outsiders are seen as unwelcome interlopers who should be regarded with suspicion.

The still-fuzzy picture of the “Trump vote” that emerges from all this is a bloc of voters who are acutely sensitive to economic decline (even if they aren’t necessarily feeling it themselves) and are more receptive to hypernationalist and nativist politicking due to their own racial and cultural isolation.

Thus, the typical Trump voter isn’t necessarily a laid off Stars & Bars waving redneck from Steubenville, Ohio. He’s more likely to be a father from a suburban white enclave of Cleveland whose kid can’t move out of the house because he or she can’t find high enough paying work or low enough rent. There’s a good chance that this kid is dabbling in painkillers and opioids brought to his community through Mexican drug traffickers. There’s a whole lot to Trump’s message that speaks to this father (and probably his wife, too), and he’s pissed off, more than anything else, about the bad prospects for his son or daughter.

So, what kind of messages do you think he’s interested in hearing from a Democrat?

I think he wants to know how you’re going to keep Mexican-supplied heroin out of his community, and how you’re going to make it possible for his kid to have the same standard of living and independence that he enjoyed at the same age. Trump offers vague and blunt instruments (building a wall, making deals), but he at least speaks to this man’s anxieties. Quite clearly, the other Republican candidates never did with all their talk of gay marriage and tax cuts and Benghazi.

It shouldn’t be all that surprising that lily-white areas with poor upward social mobility and declining health rates are Trump’s best enclaves of support. At the Washington Monthly, we’ve been hitting on these themes for a couple of years now, most recently in an exclusive from Mike Males, the senior researcher for San Francisco’s Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

In 2015 – in stark contrast to 1990 – teen gun-related deaths totaled 57, while teen murder arrests numbered 65. Overall in California, the crime rate among teenagers has dropped by 80 percent since 1980 – at the same time immigration has fueled a growing, more racially diverse young population, now 72 percent of color. The school dropout rate has also nosedived, as have births by teen and young-adult mothers. College enrollment and graduation rates have soared. These trends, moreover, are not unique to California. They’re happening nationally.

The flip side of young Americans’ astonishing behavioral turnaround is an equivalently dramatic decline among older Whites. In California, for example, the number of arrests among people over 40 in 2015 was nearly double the number of arrests among Black and Hispanic teens. Nationally, in a shocking reversal of past patterns, a middle-aged White is at greater risk today of violent death (by suicide, accident, or murder, and especially from guns or illicit drugs) than an African American teenager or young adult.

These stunning reversals of fortune among the generations could help explain one of the central mysteries of this year’s election cycle: why two such starkly divergent views of America – Republican Donald Trump’s grim vision of an apocalyptically degenerated America and Democrat Hillary Clinton’s sunny affirmation of a diversifying country’s bright future – are finding equal resonance. The short answer is that both portraits reflect equally valid truths about Americans’ experience today – depending on who and how old you are. While Democrats’ younger, more diverse constituencies are experiencing dramatic improvements in their personal security and behavioral well-being, Trump’s older White demographic is suffering rising drug abuse, crime, incarceration, suicide, gun fatality, and disarray.

The Gallup data on Trump supporters actually tracks quite closely to what we’ve been observing, but that doesn’t mean that Millennials have to live in all-white suburbs to feel that this economy doesn’t work for them. And, no matter where people live, parents are feeling the same way.

This kind of poll data is far more useful than the “horse race” polling that the media typically engages in.

6 responses to “Who are the Trump voters?

  1. karen mcclelland

    Dear John. Quoting June polls in August , even if your numbers were right is irrelevant. Today Trump is losing. And even if you are correct that austerity has improved our universities -what good care rgayvwhen Arizonans can not attend?? We need a major revamp of our student loan program- no lender should ever make a profit on a student loan. And a revamp of our K12 with less emphasis on reducing excellence to the numbers and statistics you loved so much -and a recognition that creativity, innovation and teamwork in teachers and students is not measurable by one test.

  2. John Huppenthal

    According to a national survey of 23,347 registered voters conducted by Morning Consult in June and the first two weeks of July, Trump leads Clinton, 45 percent to 41 percent, among voters making more than $100,000 annually. He also leads Clinton by 3 points, 44 percent to 41 percent, among voters who make between $50,000 and $100,000.

    But Clinton has a larger lead over Trump among the less wealthy and those down on their luck. She leads Trump, 43 percent to 37 percent, among people making less than $50,000 annually and by 10 percentage points among people who are unemployed, 44 percent to 34 percent.

    Nothing like a few facts to spoil a narrative.

    Clinton is leading only because millennials are morons and victims. They actually believe the toxic brew that you guys spew. That business owners will pay more taxes at a tax rate of 73% than they would at 28% and work just as hard at creating jobs. That 170,000 pages of federal regulation don’t destroy jobs at a faster pace than 150,000 pages. That $500 billion in welfare spending doesn’t trap millions of people in a life of squalid dependency. That a minimum wage of $15 dollars won’t permanently lock millions of people out of the job market and the ladder to prosperity. That illegal aliens weren’t committing crimes at astronomically higher rates than citizens.

    Millenials are also victims of a University culture which loads them with debt without creating any value for them. Once you properly load your regression specification, the value of a college degree vanishes. All you have to do is insert 8th grade math scores. Careful longitudinal studies have shown that the typical college student at the two year point shows absolutely no cognitive benefit from their first two years of study.

    Most students are really just another dependent welfare population which all you people crave because of the power it gives you at the ballot box.

    Government should get out of the loan guarantee business and students should be able to declare bankruptcy. That is the only way you will get universities to evolve to organizations that actually care about students.

    Our universities in Arizona started to actually improve when the legislature began defunding them. They were stuck at the 20% excellence level and began moving a point a year when defunding began in a very serious way. Now they are moving at about 2 points a year. Now, we have two dynamic university systems. NAU and ASU. But, they could be moving at 7 points a year.

    • Morons? You people? I’m so glad you were turned away at the ballot box.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      There he is folks, Falcon9 in all his glory, formerly in charge of education for an entire state!

      Can you believe that? The guy who wrote this somewhat incoherent, hateful, insult filled, and more than a little racist diatribe was an elected official!

      And then he lost to…. Diane Douglas!

      The magnitude of little Johnny’s sobbing, sniffle filled fall from grace cannot be overemphasized. Pity the Master of Sockpuppets, his public shame is endless.

      • John Huppenthal

        Oooh, drew a little blood did I?

        These were my results for the downtrodden.

        Arizona African American test scores rose from 6th to 1st in the nation in 8th grade math. Hispanics rose from 35th to 11th in 8th grade math.
        White students were 6th in the nation in 8th grade math.

        All of our demographics were above average in reading.

        Cost: $400 million in cost reduction. No cost.

        These were the results of President Obama:

        The nation went down in math for the first time ever.

        Reading scores did not improve.

        Cost: $5 billion in Race to the Top funds.

        Who is the racist? The person who successfully lift up the downtrodden or the people who pretend but adopt policies that crush their faces into the mud?

  3. Very illuminating! Thanks AZ Blue!