Gallup has an article on its website that takes a deep dive into demographic and polling data to tease out a model of a protypical Trump supporter.
In a nutshell, the article says that the protypical Trump supporter is male, white, blue collar, with the majority earning either on par or slightly less than median, but is not more likely to have been impacted by illegal immigration or trade competition.
The conclusion is very eloquently stated:
Thus the apparent correlation between Trump support and the manufacturing orientation of a local area is driven, at least in part, by the demographics of those living in the place rather than by the economic characteristics of the place. Older, less-educated white men tend to live in industrial metropolitan areas, but men with these same characteristics are more likely to support Trump if they live in parts of the country that have been relatively sheltered from trade competition or manufacturing decline.
This is an interesting look into economic correlation with Trump support. But I wonder if the analysis is missing something. As I recall, there was previously a candidate on the Republican side with views similar to Trump, Pat Buchanan, who wanted to militarize the southern border and end all immigration, and he got almost nowhere. So, to take the conclusions at face value, I’d have to assume that these people, the prototypical Trump supporters, have all of sudden just shown up to vote. It might be true in some cases, the turnout was much higher in the primaries than average. But it seems like a stretch for it to have been enough to hijack a major party’s presidential nomination.
Taking a look at what is included in the analysis, it compares manufacturing areas near the border and those with exposure to Chinese exports with other manufacturing areas in the interior, which I think is safe to characterize as making assumptions regarding actual economic impact concerning illegal immigration and trade. Economic impact from these, however, is hard to pin down to make the point. If it were easy, the pertinent data would broadcast far and wide, and I wouldn’t have to write blog posts like this one. Perhaps assumptions made about these border areas and port cities in this analysis are more nebulous than that, like if there is any impact, it would certainly be in those places.
To illustrate my point: Surely, no company in Rochester, NY has ever fired a whole business unit and shipped all of the activity off to India. None in the interior are firing 80% of their domestic work force and importing labor to fill in the gaps – planes don’t exist. And we certainly cannot buy Chinese imports here. Ridiculous.
I have an alternative explanation from Gallup’s own data, however.
When asked the open-ended question: What is the one issue respondents want to see addressed by the next president, 45% mentioned some major theme on economics with the remaining 55% spread out over 5 other topics:
- The economy (19%)
- Immigration (14%)
- Wages/decline of the middle class (6%)
- Jobs/unemployment (6%)
Donald Trump’s rhetoric hits all four of these categories in no small way, with the rest of the topics virtually ignored. Hillary’s rhetoric? Not so much, with the exception of a passing offer of government dependence for the unfortunate, randomly sacrificed individuals.
Back in 1996, there was speculation Trump would run for the presidency. I followed him back then, and never noticed an obsession with immigration. At that time he chose not to run, and I voted for Steve Forbes in the primary. And again in 2000, Trump flirted with running. In fact, he ran for the Independence Party’s nomination, got it, and then bailed on them. But he was not obsessed with immigration then either.
This is just speculation on my part, but perhaps Trump is actually smart enough to read polling data when making choices about which issues to emphasize. If that were anywhere close to reality, it may not be such a wonder that he gets away with saying things that no other politician would, after all. He is telling people what they want to hear in a very selected and specific way.
So much for the assumption that ignorant, lower class white men are the culprits in hijacking a major party (a feat that not even the Tea Party could pull off) and disrupting the political climate.