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Survey Shows Depression, Trauma Among Voters Who Chose Trump

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Survey Shows Depression, Trauma Among Voters Who Chose Trump


Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Looking to the past, not the future. Feeling lost, resenting immigrants. Feeling broke, picked on. Self-medicating, rejecting education. Wanting a rule-breaking leader to end the misery.

These are some of the characteristics of white working-class voters who were three times more likely to support Donald Trump in the 2016 election, according to an expanded analysis of more than 3,000 people surveyed before and after the election by PRRI/The Atlantic of white Americans who are marked by “cultural dislocation.”

“These new results show that feelings of cultural displacement and a desire for cultural protection, more than economic hardship, drove white working-class voters to support Trump in 2016,” says PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “The findings cast new light on how Trump’s ‘Make American Great Again!’ slogan tapped these fears and anxieties and a deep sense of nostalgia for a previous time in the country when white conservative Christians perceived that they had more power and influence.”

The PRRI survey is remarkable in ways its press release doesn’t quite say. It suggests Trump’s supporters don’t do well distinguishing between their feelings and factual circumstances. Take their relative economic class—they’re not necessarily poor, but they aren’t satisfied. They don’t like what they see, but want someone else to fix it. They’re traumatized and lash out. Many are inclined to blame others and self-medicate, yet reject self-betterment through higher education. The survey shows that lots of people in overlooked America vote based on their frustrations and darker emotions.

“Compared to cultural factors, economic factors were less strong predictors of support for Trump,” PRRI’s press release said, using neutral language. But what are cultural factors besides personal biases, beliefs and perceptions unfettered by fact-based realities?

“White working-class voters who reported feelings of economic fatalism—defined as those who believe that a college education is a risky gamble—were about twice as likely as those who believe college is a smart investment in the future to have favored Trump,” PRRI continued. “Notably, white working-class voters who reported simply being in poor financial shape were nearly twice as likely as those who reported being in better financial shape to support Hillary Clinton.”

Here are 12 excerpts from the PRRI/Atlantic White Working Class Survey conducted between September 22 and October 9, 2016. The report also draws on a set of four focus groups conducted in Cincinnati, Ohio, in December 2016 and additional PRRI surveys that contained samples of white working-class Americans. Here’s how they describe Trump’s white working-class base.

1. Nostalgia for the 1950s. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of the white working class believe American culture and way of life has deteriorated since the 1950s, compared to a majority (56 percent) of white college-educated Americans who say American culture and way of life has improved.

2. Strangers in their own country. Nearly half (48 percent) of white working-class Americans agree, saying things have changed so much that they often feel like strangers in their own country, while 74 percent of white college-educated Americans reject this notion.

3. Protection from foreign influence. Sixty-eight percent of white working-class Americans believe the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence. Fewer than half (44 percent) of white college-educated Americans express this view.

4. Losing the American identity. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of white working-class Americans along with a majority (55 percent) of the public overall believe the U.S. is in danger of losing its culture and identity.

5. Attitudes on immigrants and immigration. More than six in 10 (62 percent) white working-class Americans believe the growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens American culture. However, nearly six in 10 (59 percent) white working-class Americans believe immigrants living in the country illegally should be allowed to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements, while 10 percent say they should be allowed to become permanent legal residents. More than one in four (27 percent) say we should identify and deport illegal immigrants. Support for a path to citizenship is only slightly lower than support among the general public (63 percent).

6. Perceptions of reverse discrimination. More than half (52 percent) of white working-class Americans believe discrimination against whites has now become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities, while 70 percent of white college-educated Americans disagree.

7. Bad financial shape. Fewer than four in 10 of the white working-class report they are in excellent (5 percent) or good (33 percent) shape financially, compared to six in 10 who say they are in fair (35 percent) or poor shape (25 percent). White working-class Americans are about as likely to say their financial situation has diminished (27 percent) as to say it has improved (29 percent). White college-educated Americans, in contrast, are about three times as likely to say their financial circumstances have gotten better than gotten worse (41 percent vs. 14 percent, respectively).

8. College doesn’t pay off. A majority (54 percent) of the white working-class view getting a college education as a risky gamble, while only 44 percent say it is a smart investment.

9. Wanted: rule-breaking leader. Six in 10 (60 percent) white working-class Americans, compared to only 32 percent of white college-educated Americans, say we need a strong leader who is willing to break the rules, because things have gotten so far off track.

10. Yes to restoring felony voting rights. More than seven in 10 (71 percent) white working-class Americans and about three-quarters (74 percent) of the public overall agree a person who has been convicted of a felony should be allowed to vote after he has served his sentence.

11. Substance abusers likely. Nearly four in 10 (38 percent) white working-class Americans, compared to 26 percent of white college-educated Americans, say they or someone in their household has experienced depression in the last 12 months. Twelve percent of white working-class Americans report a family member has struggled with alcoholism, while a similar number (8 percent) say the same of drug addiction. Among white college-educated Americans, fewer say someone in their household has struggled with either alcoholism (9 percent) or drug addiction (3 percent).

12. Drug treatment over jail time. Approximately seven in 10 (71 percent) white working-class Americans and three-quarters (74 percent) of the public support a law mandating drug treatment instead of prison for those using illegal drugs on their first or second offense. More than eight in 10 (82 percent) white college-educated Americans also support a treatment option over incarceration. Drug treatment is the preferred option among an overwhelming number of black (78 percent) and Hispanic (67 percent) Americans.

Trump’s America

The PRRI/Atlantic survey underscores how much of Trump’s base are deeply traumatized, stuck in their lives and think little of education as a path to improvement. (These are not the corporate elites who support Trump because they are seeking to increase their wealth through government deregulation and privatization of public services.)

“White working-class Americans display a strong sense of economic fatalism, which influenced their vote choice in 2016,” said PRRI research director Dan Cox. “A majority of white working-class Americans believe that college education is more of a risk than an investment in the future, a view that is at odds not only with white college-educated Americans, but with black and Hispanic Americans as well. And white working-class voters who lost confidence in the education system as a path to upward mobility were much more likely to support Trump in the 2016 election.”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.



  1. Thoughtopsy May 17, 2017

    Therefore one logical counter is:
    Make College Free.

    i.e. The Bernie plan.
    If college is no longer seen as a risk… because you don’t have to pay for it…. then there are no excuses to gaining a higher education and potentially a better job…. and expanding your horizons, contacts and knowledge.

    The majority still won’t go of course. Because they actively avoid expanding their minds, and want no challenges to their ingrained ideology and limited beliefs.
    Why… if they go to College they might come to understand (even just peripherally) the plight of minorities in the USA, or come to see LGBTQ people as just… people. They might learn those easily available facts about which party actually screws over the working class. They might learn about manipulation and come to understand what has been done to them…

    So no… most won’t even go then. (Bright point: Some will though!)
    But at least then they can’t blame cost/risk as the problem.
    They just don’t want to know.

  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 17, 2017

    “Make America Great Again” was the battle cry—a vain and shallow slogan that was superficial from the get-go. Now, the slogan should be altered to read, “Make Trump Pay the Full Price For His Transgressions!!”

    Trump was an abnormality who stupefied, intimidated, and outwitted the hapless wannabes and also-rans who didn’t have the intelligence to present their case during the Debates; and Trump would go on to dupe millions, including most in Congress into thinking he was capable of being a President. And now, those same mentally inert Trump supporters are finally beginning to feel the Trump Effect which so many of the rest of us saw coming months before the Election Season began. Paul Ryan and Mitch still don’t get it—they’re more obtuse than the average moron.

    Instead of America being in a position to be great, Trump is making the country go down in the history books as the nation with the highest concentration of quislings and myrmidons; a nation whose greatness has been severely tarnished in the past 8 years despite a breath of fresh air in the 8 years of President Obama’s historic election. An election met with derision by all the racist elements in America, and scorned by bigots in every corner of the nation.

    Racism and bigotry don’t make a nation great, nor does a worship of money and a fondness to be hostile towards other human beings of different Religions and ethnicities qualify And greatness is also impossible for any nation which is foolish enough to let an Electoral College approve for the Presidency an avowed groper and accused sexual assaulter, an unadulterated misogynist with racist tendencies — who even bragged about grabbing women by the genitalia. That alone should have repulsed every single person in the nation, aside from the irreversibly depraved, but Republicans and Trump’s supporters weren’t in the least concerned. Conservative Ideology took precedence over morality, humility, compassion, and respect for God and His Creation. Conservative Ideology has been deformed to the point of being an amalgamation of the very worst combinations that a human being can stoop to. A demonic combination which has no business saying it is of God, and inspired by Him.
    Such a collection of partisans are the essence of a satanic character, especially given the dregs of human society who’re attracted to its message. I hate to sound so pessimistic about the GOP, but they have aspired to be the worst entity ever assembled in history—as far from being godly as the metaphorical Satan represents.

    Little wonder then that they would be depressed and traumatized by their gut-first way of thinking and decision-making running up to the vote in Nov. 2016. The voters and trump share the same character flaws as Trump, otherwise they would have been instinctively repulsed by Trump’s every body language and utterance.

    Those who’re just now feeling depressed and traumatized are way too late to be expressing such sentiments. Better luck next time after Trump’s impeached, and 2020 rolls around, and the interim elections are held.

    1. InformedVoter May 19, 2017

      Sorry AofP, but the majority of Americans are breathing a sigh of relief now that President Trump has just about eliminated all of obozo’s “legacy”.
      What the article doesn’t publish is that once college educated (should say indoctrinated) folks are in the workforce for a couple of years, they see that they were lied to and become conservatives.
      That’s the truth behind the “real”polls. When bias is stripped from the polls, 80% of liberals support President Trump. Isn’t that interesting?
      Overseas, the approval ratings for obozo, when bias was stripped, was below 40%, and was similar to GWs. When bias is stripped, President Trump’s approval rating is just below 70%, way ahead of obozo’s.
      I just love how President Trump has the FAKE MSM squirming and twisting. Each “new scandal” doesn’t grow legs, and the put out another. The voters are going to rebel big time against the Dems in the mid-terms.

      1. Independent1 May 19, 2017

        Do you ever do anything but post one lie after another? Americans are so fed up with Trump even his base is fleeing.

        How Popular is Trump? Latest Approval Rating Plummets as White Supporters Flee – as of 5/11/2017

        It’s no secret President Donald Trump isn’t popular with the majority of Americans, but a new poll this week shows he is beginning to lose some of the demographics that thrust him into the White House.

        The Quinnipiac University survey found that just 36 percent of voters approve of the job Trump is doing, while 58 percent disapprove. That’s a “near-record” negative rating and a drop from last month, the poll noted. In its April 19 poll, Quinnipiac University found Trump’s approval rating stood at 40 percent with 56 percent disapproving.

        Perhaps even more troubling for the president: The folks who made up his base in November’s election appear to be growing weary. White voters are fleeing.


        Better go find another job loser. Your lies are well known here!!!

        1. InformedVoter May 19, 2017

          Sorry but you are naive and just keep proving it! And these polls are brought to you by the same FAKE MSM who told you that HilLIARy would win and possibly in a landslide. So how did that work out for you?
          The neutral base polls show that President Trump’s approval rating is near 70%. And the same neutral base poll of obozo shows his approval rating 30-34, about the same as GWs.
          In fact, among millennials, President Trump’s approval neutral base rating is just above 80%! When the poll is not neutral base, his millennial approval rating is 36% so you can easily see that the FAKE MSM is manipulating the polls to make folks think President Trump is not popular and obozo is. Want an example of the FAKE MSM HIGHLY inaccurate poll? I know you’ll enjoy this one.


      2. Independent1 May 19, 2017

        And don’t forget this article from the NM:

        Young People Are Leaving The Republican Party In Droves, New Study Finds


        Losing older white voters; losing younger voters in droves!! The GOP is on it’s last legs loser!!! Better go find another political party to lie about!!

        1. InformedVoter May 19, 2017

          Poor ID1, you put all your faith in news sources like TNM and you wonder why you look so foolish when you start making posts.
          The unions are moving to join President Trump as he keeps union jobs from moving away and even bringing back union jobs. The Dems have lost over 1000 seats in the past 8 years and with obozocare crumbling under its own folly, the voters are leaving the Dem party in droves.
          You can choose to believe the FAKE MSM, but remember, these are the same sources that told you that HilLIARy would win easily and possibly in a landslide. I know you believed those FAKE MSM and that’s why you had to seek out a safe room so you could have a good cry when the voters handed President Trump his MANDATE victory.
          The Dems have no policy, they have no leaders (you were even stupid enough to re-elect Pelsoi) and they have no candidates the public thinks is trustworthy. Once President Trump pushes the tax relief through, and obozocare has died under its own folly, the Dems will be in for a real beating in 2018.
          The odds makers are quoting odds that the Dem party will just about disappear after the 2018 elections. Old Bernie will establish a socialist party that will pull the guts out of what’s left of you lefties.

      3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 21, 2017

        Your delirium hasn’t abated. Are you that stupid as to not understand what constitutes a majority? Did you finish the 6th grade?
        Less than 50% approval for Trump’s performance is NOT a majority as far as “APPROVAL” is concerned. Did you take your own scientific polling to determine your “majority”??

        FOX had already destroyed what little remained of your brain the first time I had the pleasure of encountering you. Seems like the damage is still ongoing.

        1. InformedVoter May 21, 2017

          Poor AofP, President Trump’s unbiased approval rating is approaching 70% Among millennials, it’s above 80%. So it would seem that you are the one who failed math.
          Why am I not surprised that you are ignorant of reality.

      4. 788eddie May 21, 2017

        I copied and sent your comment above to friends in Canada; they think you’re a rectal oriface, too. One asked if there were many more idiots like you down here.

        They love President Obama up there, because hi helped heal the damage done by George W.

        Now they see Trump undoing all of the good work done over the last eight years.

        1. InformedVoter May 21, 2017

          Sorry eddie, but all you proved was that you have some wacko friends, no surprise there. Nope, foreign approval of obozo is even lower than in the US, that would be lower than 35%.
          And thanks for admitting that President Trump is successful in erasing the harm that obozo did and so quickly. Most of your lefty posters claim that President Trump hasn’t done a thing to erase obozo’s “legacy”. I’ve been claiming that by year’s end, obozo will be nothing but a bad dream.
          obozocare repealed and gone, immigration policies that work, and an economy that has been revived.

          1. 788eddie May 21, 2017

            Don’t know what your sources are, (mis)informed, but you’re way off base . President Obama is recognized by most of the rest of the world as having, in a big way, repaired the reputation of the U.S. caused by the George W. Bush administration and the neo-cons.

            Next, you’ll be trying to convince us that President Obama didn’t get the Nobel Peace Prize either.

            You are one sad cookie, (mis)informed.

          2. InformedVoter May 21, 2017

            Sorry eddie, but it is you who is poorly informed.
            obozo got the Nobel prize after being in office 12 days! He was given the “award” for doing absolutely ZERO.
            Now who looks dumb, and it certainly isn’t me!
            Throughout Europe, obozo was openly mocked by the press. They didn’t worship him like our FAKE MSM.
            obozo did his best to make us the laughing stock of the world – he almost destroyed our reputation. Why do you think President Trump’s slogan “make America great” resonated so well with the voters and propelled President Trump to his MANDATE victory.
            Yup, obozo did a great job of improving our global image, especially when he bowed to the Arab leaders. Several cartoons showed obozo bending over so far so as to be unzipping their pants. As the cartoon depicted “now that he’s down there, what does he plan on doing”.
            Yup, obozo really was looked up to – NOT. Those elephant ears really made him look “presidential” didn’t they.

          3. 788eddie May 21, 2017

            Wrong again, squirt! President Obama (and I do know how to spell his name correctly, unlike yourself) was awarded the Nobel Peace prize by the Nobel Committee because of the man he is, as well as for the messages he was sending to the rest of the world.

            Your poor, pathetic attempts at trashing others is a reflection on your lack of empathy for others.

            What a sad human being!

          4. InformedVoter May 22, 2017

            You are so poorly informed that you reek. obozo didn’t earn that award and no one with an ounce of intelligence would think so. So please elaborate on what exactly obozo did in 12 days to earn it. Don’t post that crap about his background. His background as a community organizer and a state senator who didn’t vote more than 50% of the time, are not something that would earn the award.
            it was done by the FAKE MSM and it was a sham.
            Yup, the message he sent to the rest of the world was that the US would no longer be a world leader and that we would be marching towards becoming a third world nation. EVERY world leader has now publicly commented that the US is once more the leader of the free world. Despite obozo’s efforts to make us a third world country, President Trump has saved our country and probably stopped the confrontations that obozo orchestrated with him drawing lines in the sand that were totally ignored.
            obozo’s approval rating is now in the low 30s – still too high,l but it keeps going lower and lower as President Trump exposes obozo’s failed policies.

  3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 17, 2017

    This article brings out so many other points than just Trump’s ability to appeal to the baser instincts of the demographic group described.

    Despite Trump’s enormously disfigured personality and abnormal perturbative effect on American society, there is this notion of identity, including what people label as “White People”.

    This label is useful ONLY for the purpose of pointing out a segment of the human family with a lighter complexion and other outer features, as a result of environmental requirements and to conform with the pattern of creation requiring diversity. It serves as a convenient point of reference when writing about groups of humans, to make reference to artificial notions like skin color and other features. These are ephemeral qualities destined to evaporate and/or change by the passage of time, and due to environmental factors.

    This diversity of outer appearances and customs has led to a confusion not unlike the confusion of languages, as the metaphor of Babel quite likely references indirectly. Human diversity in physical appearance, along with cultural differences per social evolutionary paths, is the key ingredient that has driven humanity to think of themselves as distinct entities. And so, various “limited” unities arose around such differences and have widened with the passage of time. Religion stressed the Oneness of humanity, but the clergy misunderstood the references, failed to understand the hidden meanings behind references to various tribes and the metaphors involving colors as references to describe spiritual conditions primarily. Nor did Religions then attempt to go into details about the biological meanings of human diversity—until now.

    Now that Baha’u’llah has explained more fully what was veiled on purpose by Jesus, Muhammad, Moses, etc., we can slowly begin to unravel the reasons for groups like the ones described in the article. By thinking obsessively about their “identity” as though they’re a separate species from other humans, “white” people described are led to see themselves as being apart, and therefore feel besieged for no reason. And Blacks, Asians, Muslims, Jews, Native Americans, etc. all have similar ways of thinking—each group imagining they are an island unto themselves, unmindful of the intimate bonds, unseen, which connect all humanity as One Family.

    This is the primary purpose for the appearance of Baha’u’llah, to lay out in the open in a manner unintended in the past because of limited capacities to understand fully how we’re related. Thousands of years of social and spiritual evolution and development of societies had to elapse before this Era.

    “O SON OF BEAUTY! By My spirit and by My favor! By My mercy and by My beauty! All that I have revealed unto thee with the tongue of power, and have written for thee with the pen of might, hath been in accordance with thy capacity and understanding, not with My state and the melody of My voice.”

    In this aphorism by Baha’u’llah, I believe this is related to the theme of what could be mentioned by each of the Messengers to humanity, and how much. From the past up to now—and this pattern will continue with subsequent Messengers.

    1. idamag May 19, 2017

      Makes we wonder what they consider the white American identity: “Get your ass in the saddle, Pilgrim” or “We hold these truths to be self-evident?”

  4. idamag May 19, 2017

    Those who want someone, like trump, to alleviate their pains are the spoiled generation. They re materialistic. Their woes are not the government’s fault. When they run up $10,000 worth of credit card debt, they do not want to pay taxes or anything else that does not produce instant gratification. It was interesting to see that most of them had a member of their family into drugs or alcohol. I started enumerating those, I know, who support trump. Everyone of them has a druggie or alkie in their family.


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