Poor? Blue Collar? Fear Immigrants? The Trump Base Isn’t Who You Think It Is

This article first appeared on Verdict.

As noted in my prior column much has been made of then-candidate and now-President Donald Trump’s core supporters—his so-called base.

When referring to Trump’s base, reference is to more than merely those who voted for Trump, but those who appear to support him through thick and thin, i.e., those who, in his words, would still vote for him even if he shot someone on 5th Avenue.

As best I can determine from the available material, and noted in the prior column, the Trump base has shrunk down to about 24 percent of those who voted for him or have spoken approvingly of him to pollsters.

As professional Republican pollster Kristen Anderson reported: “It is around one in four [of people polled] who like his tweeting, like the insults,” which seems something of an index to Trump’s mind and actions. This core group appears to be the base on which Trump’s approval ratings are based, as well, and those numbers have been historically low from the outset of his presidency, and they have been trending downward.

According to the Gallup weekly polls, Trump’s job approval started at around 45 percent, but during his first year in office, it was mostly below 40 percent.

As a poll-watcher, I also noticed the most recent Washington Post-ABC News polls show that only 11 percent of all Americans think his tweeting is helpful, with only 21 percent of Republicans approve of his tweeting (more evidence of his shrinking base).

GettyImages-614189910 Donald Trump kisses a 'Women for Trump' placard at a rally at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Florida on October 12, 2016. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty

Trump’s base obviously resides within the collection of voters who supported him at the polls in November 2016. According to a Boston Globe (Nov. 9, 2016) exit poll demographics of the 2016 presidential vote reveal the following (which I have abbreviated for this column):

See here for full exit polling data.

Before the 2016 general election, much of the polling of potential Trump voters focused on low-earning and little-educated, white, working-class men, suggesting they were his core supporters. But that early polling has proved less than accurate based on the information in the general election exit polling.

For example, when the exit poll numbers are further broken down, they show that voters with income over $50,000 (also reported as $50 to $100,000) with Trump winning this bracket 50 percent to Clinton’s 46 percent and he also won the over $100,000 bracket 48 percent to Clinton’s 47 percent.

While only 27 percent of the 2016 voters considered their financial situation worse on Election Day 2016 than 2012, Trump overwhelming carried those voters’ 78 percent to Clinton’s 19 percent.

In short, it does not appear that financial distress, fear of the future, or immigrants taking their jobs is a common factor uniting Trump’s base.

I am not going to explain all the interesting facts that can be gleaned from my chart. I am not a chart spoiler. But it should be noted the 2016 exit poll demographics do suggest that given his 12-point margin over Clinton with men, his base is predominately male. (This may explain his current refusal to show any empathy whatsoever with the women abused by his White House staff—not to mention his disparaging over a dozen women who have accused him sexual improprieties.)

News people have been interviewing Trump voters all over the country, and most prominently in West Virginia and Ohio, more specifically areas that had previously voted for Obama that voted overwhelmingly for Trump. While these group sessions are interesting, I find they tell us little about Trump’s base.

Fortunately, however, academics have now had the 2016 election data for over a year, and their studies can tell us not just who within the demographic set forth in the chart above are Trump’s base, but why they are Trumpian to the end. With these prior articles as a preface, I can turn to the findings of these studies, which can now be better understood.

(Indeed, I am waiting for one of the major studies to come hot off the press to bring my overview of Trump base to a close, by explaining why people support this most untraditional, norm shattering, president.)

To be continued.

John W. Dean is a former counsel to President Richard Nixon.