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There Is No “Trump Voter” and It’s Dangerous to Think Otherwise

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There Is No “Trump Voter” and It’s Dangerous to Think Otherwise

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Trump supporters (R) voice their opinions at anti-Trump protesters following a campaign rally for Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump in Cleveland, Ohio, March 12, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Donald Trump wasn’t expected to go far in this election. His “ceiling” was thought to be 35-40 percent of the GOP electorate, and many, including myself, linked his support primarily to white working class voters. But he’s still here, and he’s still way ahead.

Trump’s support goes beyond what we thought. As the Washington Post reported at the beginning of this month, exit polls “show his supporters as a mix of men and women who are mostly white but not exclusively. Their salaries, education levels, religious beliefs and degree of conservatism run the gamut.”

YouGov polls have found that 20 percent of Trump supporters describe themselves as “liberal” or “moderate,” 65 percent as “conservative,” and only 13 percent as “very conservative.” He also pulls from a base of self-identified Republicans who are still registered as Democrats.

Exit polling from Florida showed Trump receiving the support of 58 percent of voters earning $30-50,000, 45 percent of those earning $50-100,000, and 47 percent earning $100-200,000. Those numbers aren’t heavily skewed towards the working class and show much more even voting distribution than one would expect, given the narrative surrounding Trump.

The same polls also showed that, when asked whether they thought the next president should have political experience or come from outside of the establishment, the majority of Florida voters agreed with the latter. Those respondents overwhelmingly voted for Trump. Additionally, RealClearPolitics found that “most of his support comes from candidates already in the race and not from newly inspired voters.”

A wide swath of people support Trump because they’re pissed. A July 2015 poll showed that 42 percent of adults were unhappy with the direction of the country. They wanted change, and they saw in Trump a candidate who had already changed the norms of electoral politics. So while he may have a passionate base among the working class, that demographic does not solely define Trump supporters.

In many ways, Trump’s bombast has not only driven the media absolutely crazy, but has also stopped them from taking seriously the underlying political and economic issues in this election. Their narrative of Trump supporters doesn’t offer much variety, and plays into a classist critique that we’ve seen time and time again.

The history of America politics seethes with disdain for the poor, including poor white people. As Kelly Kidd writes at Mic.com, “Americans tend to view poverty, especially white poverty, with judgment, derision, and blame. By objectifying poverty, Americans allow themselves to perceive the poor as mere stereotypes of laziness or stupidity, rather than people worthy of compassion and support.”

This despite the fact that they’re also regularly dying at younger ages than many of their peers, with recent research arguing that “Between 1998 and 2013… white Americans across multiple age groups experienced large spikes in suicide and fatalities related to alcohol and drug abuse—spikes that were so large that, for whites aged 45 to 54, they overwhelmed the dependable modern trend of steadily improving life expectancy.” Additionally, male wages at the bottom fifth of the income ladder have fallen by over 30 percent since the late 1960s, while inequality has simultaneously exploded.

Even as the media continues to portray Trump supporters as ignorant poor people, it largely ignores what it means to be poor in America.

We need to start addressing Trump and his supporters outside of the notion that he is a bad hairdo and his supporters are poor white racists. That misses the larger opportunity we have to confront the reality: that Trump appeals to a substantial number of Americans. And let’s face it, insulting people doesn’t change their political opinions. Unfortunately, neither do facts.

So what now?

We should start by looking at the issues themselves: economic degradation and people who were left behind by a globalized American economy; terrorism and the underlying factors that lead to ideological violence; the need for campaign finance reform to combat the appeal of nebulous terms like “authenticity” and “outsider.”

These aren’t white working class issues, these are issues that concern a wide cross-section of people. Our political media needs to address them, or they’ll be stuck addressing the ugly prejudices that rush to offer their own explanations for Americans’ problems.

Photo: Trump supporters (R) voice their opinions at anti-Trump protesters following a campaign rally for Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump in Cleveland, Ohio, March 12, 2016.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook 

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14 Comments

  1. Daniel Jones April 2, 2016

    ~~Standing in line marking time, waiting for the welfare dime

    ‘Cause they can’t buy a job

    The man in the silk suit hurries by

    As he catches the poor old ladies’ eyes just for fun he says, “Get a job”~~
    –Bruce Hornsby (and the Range), excerpted from “That’s Just The Way It Is”.

    Calling the unfortunate ignorant in order to ignore them. I have to wonder, has *Noblesse Oblige* ever been held to, even once?

    Reply
    1. johninPCFL April 2, 2016

      Certainly not lately.

      Reply
  2. patrick g van meter April 2, 2016

    I can’t imagine voting for Trump. I do think he has served one purpose. IMO he has helped to open everyones eyes to the travesty that exists in our political system. When you take a guy that is used to having his own way and answers to no one, spells nothing but trouble for the two party system. Its not over until it is over. This monster will not leave without a fight. He is just getting started.

    Reply
  3. atc333 April 2, 2016

    Unfortunately this nation has had three GOP Administrations, plus 7 years of GOP block and stall with Obama, all centered around tax cuts for job creators, no investments in infratructure, job creation, and putting wealth accumulaiton and consolidation of political power by pandering to Big Oil Coal, and Corporate America. It is so extreme we see the Party of individual and states rights attempting to block individual states from requiring the lableing of GMO content on food, or banning fracking within individual states borders, even though we now have proof of drinking water cantamination and massive increases in earthquakes in and around the fracking states.

    Cruz and Trump both deny human caused Global Warming as do most GOP Politicians, as it is in their best financal interests to do so, as it insures each of them continued long term politcal contributions.

    Meanwhile, Ice caps are melting, ocean temperatures are rising, reefs are dying, killing off fish nursury areas, sea leveis are rising at increaseaing speeds, weather patterns are changing and becoming more violent,distructive insect species are migrating into new areas , crops are having to be switched out for other crops, and other species are simply dying off, and the GOP continiues on with “business as usual.”

    Reply
    1. latebloomingrandma April 2, 2016

      The GOP should change their mascot to an ostrich.

      Reply
    2. itsfun April 2, 2016

      The world temp hasn’t changed in the last ten years?

      Reply
      1. atc333 April 2, 2016

        be

        But it has. by almost half a degree average world wide since 2000 to 2010 If you begin in 1975, it has gone up 1.25%. The tipping point at which taking steps to slow and stop it will no longer work is a 2 degree increase , according to the experts. http://insideclimatenews.org/news/04062015/global-warming-great-hiatus-gets-debunked-NOAA-study?gclid=CKn63few8MsCFc9ahgodPqAPXA

        Reply
  4. itsfun April 2, 2016

    One problem is politicians, rich people, and the media telling poor people what it is like to be poor. Believe it or not, poor people know what it is like to be poor without some smart ass politician or reporter telling them what it like.

    Reply
    1. dpaano April 5, 2016

      And do you honestly think Trump…..who’s one of the 1%….actually “feels” for the American people? He has NO concept of being poor or having to work for money and struggle to maintain a home and a family. It astounds me that so many people can’t seem to see that and still want to vote for him. He will NOT be good for this country and inequality will grow even more under his tutelage!

      Reply
      1. itsfun April 5, 2016

        Nope; I have repeatedly said I don’t support Trump. Hillary has filled her bank account on the backs of citizens and selling our country out to foreign donors for donations to her foundation. Neither one of them will be good for our country or our people. It just seems that in a country as great as ours is, we could come up honest, trustworthy people to be our Presidential candidates instead of what is out there now.

        Reply
        1. dpaano April 6, 2016

          Do you realize that ALL the funds donated to the Clinton Foundation do NOT go to the Clinton’s personally…..these funds have been spent to help third world countries, women, and other great causes! Why is it NOT good for the U.S. to help third world countries with health issues, etc.? Are we supposed to just sit on our butts and do nothing to help others…..isn’t this the “Christian” way of doing things? The Clinton’s are honest and trustworthy and have proven themselves to be so many times over!

          Reply
          1. itsfun April 6, 2016

            How can anyone use the words trustworthy and Clinton in the same sentence. They are neither trustworthy or honest.

            Reply
  5. Dominick Vila April 3, 2016

    Donald Trump is capitalizing on the fears and uncertainties of a changing world, and a rapidly changing American society. Trying to pin down what drives his supporters is not worth the time. There are a number of factors that contribute to his popularity, and it is not limited to prejudice or hatred of immigrants and Muslims. Millions of Americans have seen the socio-economic system that contributed to the rise of the American middle class evaporate as a result of off shoring and automation. The transition to a high tech and service base has left millions of Americans behind as a result of educational demands, and the fact that service jobs can be performed remotely, and sometimes by computer systems. The result of is that those once relied on assembly line work to support their families, buy a modest house, and send their children to a community college, are now struggling to make ends meet. They blame this president, the last president, Congress, the elite, Mexicans, African Americans, the so called welfare state, a dysfunctional political system, the influence of big money on American politics, and just about everything else they can think of because the alternative is to blame themselves for not preparing themselves to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
    Assembly line work is gone. Not only because of cheap labor, but because our investors are interested in getting market share in expanding economies, such as China’s. Automation reduce labor needs considerably, and that is not going to change any time soon. Instead of trying to find a boogeyman, our people must go to college or trade schools. Instead of our government refusing to raise taxes, or reduce military spending, to pay for investment in infrastructure, preparing coastal areas, and agricultural fields, for the effects of global warming, they must have the courage to tell their constituents what needs to be done, regardless of how doing so may affect their re-election chances.
    People are dissatisfied with our political establishment, with a dysfunctional political system that places the interests of our political parties ahead of those of the nation and the people. Many of these dissatisfied people support Trump because they believe he may be able to bring about the political changes our incumbent politicians refuse to address.

    Reply
    1. dpaano April 5, 2016

      But, Dom, he’s part of the problem, and most of his backers can’t seem to understand that. They’re angry at the 1%, but, yet, they want to vote in one of them. Trump will NOT help the American people…..his goal is to give more to the rich and less to the rest of us! If people are angry now…..just give Trump a few months in office (oh God no) and see how much more angry they will be! They will finally realize what a bunch of BS he’s fed them during his ridiculous campaign, but it’ll be too late by then.

      Reply

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