Seems our national media and political voices have been perpetuating a myth about our erstwhile President’s base and his clout with members thereof. And that myth appears to be dead wrong.
Cases in point: The Atlantic proclaimed Trump’s “Building a blue collar foundation.” The Associated Press questioned what “Trump’s attraction of working class voters” would mean for future elections. Even The New York Times headlined a Trump’s 2016 victory was “a decisive demonstration of power by a largely overlooked coalition of mostly blue collar White and working class voters.”
None of that appears to be true. Recent, unconnected and widely dispersed surveys support nearly none of those claims. Especially, a newly published, and heavily researched work by Professors Nicholas Carnes of Duke University and Noam Lupu of Vanderbilt.
A key finding of theirs is most previous polling didn’t ask about voter occupations which is a statistically preferred measure of social class among scholars. So, other polls didn’t know if responders were farm workers or CEOs. And pundits – as well as other “scholars” – somehow came up with the claim Trump’s base consisted of mostly people without college degrees.
Two problems there. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, for example, aren’t college graduates. But, they’re CEO’s. Very, very rich CEO’s. While they probably didn’t vote for Trump, their presence in previous voter surveys – which included income – would certainly shatter the typical Trump backer myth.
And, two, the work of Drs. Carnes and Lupu found, while 70% of Trump’s supporters don’t have degrees, 70% is the same number for all Republican voters. So, Trump’s non-college graduate number is about the same as any other successful GOPers.
There’s more. Trump’s backers are not overwhelmingly poor. About 35% had incomes of less than $50,000 a year – both Whites and Hispanics. Meaning most of his voters – about 65% – came from the better-off half of our economy.
As for education, in this statistical examination, supporters in the last election were shown to be relatively well-schooled. “There was a 15-20% difference of Trump support between those with a college degree and those without,” they found. Said another way, among Whites without degrees voting for Trump, nearly 80% were in the top half of income distribution. And this: one in five without a degree had a household income over $100,000.
We’ve been told Trump’s base is full of beer-swilling, overweight, gun-loving, Confederate flag-waving, under-educated, poor Whites. According to this study, and some other recent work, White, non-Hispanic voters without college degrees, earning below the median household income, made up only 25%. Not exactly the “trailer trash” image the media and social media portray.
Stereotyping and scapegoating descriptions are not correct images. The narrative that Trump won mostly because of “lower income, working class” communities seems not to be true. As more academics and survey outfits use better grist for questions, we’ll likely see Carnes and Lupu’s work borne out.