During this past presidential election season, pundits and pollsters were tempted to draw a demographic picture of an average Donald Trump supporter and put them in a box that would be easy to categorize. The adjectives “poor,” “white,” “old,” “uneducated,” “rural” and “racist” tended to come up again and again.
Unfortunately for the pollsters and pundits, the spectrum of people who actually voted for Trump ended up being much broader and more diverse than they had anticipated. And in the end, there were also a healthy number of defectors from the Democratic Party who decided in this election cycle to support Trump.
Perhaps the biggest notion that pollsters miscalculated was the median household income of the Trump voter. Following the election, that number was judged to be $72,000 per year.
At first it was estimated to be much lower, but as state totals rolled in and Trump ended up winning over states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania that no Republican had managed to declare victory in since 1988 it became obvious that Trump’s message on jobs and the economy resonated not just with poorer voters but also middle-class ones, who in many cases have seen their inflation-adjusted incomes stagnate or fall over the last 20 years.
In fact, when you think about it, do you know anyone with a job paying more than $20 per hour where the wage is higher now than it was 20 years ago, adjusted for inflation? It’s true that minimum- and low-wage job pay has risen, but not at the same rate as inflation. For all these jobs, wages have remained steady or gone down while rent, food, health insurance, tuition and virtually all other costs have skyrocketed.
Effectively, these people lost ground financially, and this has resulted in a tremendous anger at Democratic politicians and policies that have enabled this. Popular books such as the runaway bestseller “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance have pointed out the huge inequities that have resulted in poverty and a raft of severe social ills that have particularly afflicted working-class communities where support for Trump was strong.
In addition, lower- and middle-income voters could see that Trump’s commitments to lower taxes and terminate free-trade agreements would benefit them more than Hillary Clinton’s vague promises of things “staying the same” and ominous hints at passage of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and other free-trade agreements.
Not only was the writing on the wall regarding jobs and wages, but it was also clear that Trump was serious about fixing immigration policy. This issue not only affects employment, but it also impacts safety, a huge concern for minority and inner-city voters, who voted for Trump in volumes that were double what Mitt Romney’s numbers were in the election of 2012.
Women also voted for Trump in larger-than-expected amounts because of Trump’s promises to overhaul Obamacare and deliver maternity leave programs championed by his daughter Ivanka. In addition, there was likely a revulsion for Hillary Clinton, who claimed to be a defender of female liberation but turned out to have taken money from groups and countries that are among the worst abusers of women’s right in the world.
The myth that people voted for Trump because of racism is just that — a myth. At the end of the day, racism (or the lack thereof) doesn’t put money in people’s pockets, and that was the number one issue for most Americans.
The idea that Trump voters are made up of groups of Ku Klux Klan and other hate group members is a patently false one that just isn’t supported by facts. First of all, sympathizers and members of hate groups make up only about one-tenth of one percent of the U.S. population, and secondly, Trump has thoroughly repudiated their support time after time.
If Trump was really a racist, would he have a “New Deal for Black America”? Would he have retained Dr. Ben Carson as an advisor to his campaign? Why weren’t all the contestants on The Apprentice program white?
The connections between Trump and racism are nonexistent, and it’s repugnant to suggest that there are any; this is a smear that’s been invented by Democrats. For the Democratic Party, it’s much easier to say that racism is the reason for Trump’s election because then, racism can become the main topic of conversation, rather than jobs, wages or the economy — issues that they’re lacking any credibility in after the horrific last eight years of the Obama administration.
The impression that Trump voters were less educated than the average American citizen is also wrong; exit polls showed that roughly 44 percent of Trump voters have college degrees — that’s roughly 50 percent higher than the national average for all Americans, which stands at 29 percent. It’s clear that Trump voters don’t fit into the stereotype of people who aren’t fully informed about the nation’s ongoing political issues.
And finally, although Democrats are loath to admit it, there were former supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who just couldn’t stomach voting for mainstream, lobbyist-connected candidate Hillary Clinton. The idea of Trump as a political outsider — a non-Washingtonian with anti-corporate and anti-globalist policies — appealed to a certain percentage of these people and drew their unexpected support.
Indeed, as with “Reagan Democrats” in the 1980s, these so-called “Trumpocrats” switched parties to vote for a candidate they felt was less corrupt, more honest, less beholden to special interests and more connected to common people.
In the end, Trump drew on a much wider array of voters than pundits expected and drew more supporters from more areas in more states than pollsters had predicted. In fact, if you look at the map of counties that Trump won, the only contiguous clusters of Clinton-won locales appear to be on the West and East coasts, reinforcing the idea that the Democratic Party is shifting from a national organization to a regional one.
Although Clinton claimed she won the popular vote by nearly two million people, if you subtract the number of illegal aliens who voted, it’s highly likely that Trump won this vote in addition to the electoral vote.
It’s easy for Democrats to try to throw a net around Trump voters and claim that they’re all alike and that they all fall into a bunch of neat, pre-drawn categories. But the truth is that they’re drawn from all walks of American life, and that’s what makes Trump’s support so strong. Moving forward, it’s important that Trump hears from all these voices and can deliver solutions and policies that will enrich and enhance their lives.