Reaching Beyond the Stereotypes
by Deacon Blues
If you are going to read anything over the weekend, read this piece in Friday’s Washington Post, which reported on a new study done by Gallup on the real support behind Donald Trump.
Economic distress and anxiety across working-class white America have become a widely discussed explanation for the success of Donald Trump. It seems to make sense. Trump's most fervent supporters tend to be white men without college degrees. This same group has suffered economically in our increasingly globalized world, as machines have replaced workers in factories and labor has shifted overseas. Trump has promised to curtail trade and other perceived threats to American workers, including immigrants.
Yet a major new analysis from Gallup, based on 87,000 interviews the polling company conducted over the past year, suggests this narrative is not complete. While there does seem to be a relationship between economic anxiety and Trump's appeal, the straightforward connection that many observers have assumed does not appear in the data.
According to this new analysis, those who view Trump favorably have not been disproportionately affected by foreign trade or immigration, compared with people with unfavorable views of the Republican presidential nominee. The results suggest that his supporters, on average, do not have lower incomes than other Americans, nor are they more likely to be unemployed.
Yet while Trump's supporters might be comparatively well off themselves, they come from places where their neighbors endure other forms of hardship. In their communities, white residents are dying younger, and it is harder for young people who grow up poor to get ahead.
So what are the major takeaways from this vast research?
The assumption to date has been that the typical Trump supporter is anti-immigrant because of personal experience or exposure to the effects of economic loss due to globalization. In fact, the study shows that Trump supporters are from white enclaves with little to no direct exposure to immigrants, that haven’t been affected much by immigration.
It also shows that Trump is popular in places where people have suffered from bad health for a long time, due to cultural habits demonstrated by poor diet and exercise habits, smoking, and alcoholism.
Despite the conventional wisdom, where it is assumed that Trump is popular in places that have suffered serious losses of manufacturing jobs due to globalization, the research actually shows Trump’s supporters are more economically secure than their neighbors.
They do however come from places that lack opportunity for the next generation.
It would be too easy to classify these supporters as simply less educated, blue-collar white working families with a streak of racism in their DNA. But they represent a significant part of our society that has been left behind and taken for granted for decades since Reagan. Hillary needs to find a way to break through the overt hostility they have towards here, and see if she can begin reaching them, if for no other reason than to ask them to not throw away their hopes on a man who cynically doesn't give a damn about them, and who offers nothing for them and their children.