Election exit polls tell us the typical Trump voter was white (non-Hispanic), male, older, rural, and had no college degree. But that doesn’t explain why they voted for Trump. There were four types of Trump voters; each having different expectations.
The 2014 Pew Research Political Typology (http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/26/the-political-typology-beyond-red-vs-blue/) provides the best categorization of American Voters. Pew described three categories of conservative voters: “Steadfast Conservatives” (15 percent of registered voters), “Business Conservatives” (12 percent), and “Young Outsiders” (15 percent). Since these make up 42 percent of the electorate, and Trump received 46 percent of the vote, let’s add a fourth group: “Hard-pressed Skeptics” (13 percent), assuming Trump got some of these — traditionally Democratic — voters.
1.Steadfast Conservatives: Pew says, “This overwhelmingly Republican group holds very conservative attitudes across most issues, including social policy and the size and scope of government. However, they are critical of business and Wall Street. Steadfast Conservatives also express highly negative attitudes toward immigrants and take a skeptical view of U.S. global involvement.” Many of these are Tea-Party voters.
Steadfast conservatives saw Trump as their last chance to “save” America. They operated under a common narrative where they saw America’s promise slipping from their reach and believed the opportunities that once belonged to them had been usurped by the undeserving: immigrants, people of color, homosexuals, feminists… Trump spoke to them when he said, “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves.”
Key Trump message: I will make America great again. Key constituent expectation: White Power.
2. Business Conservatives: Pew says, “Business Conservatives are traditional small-government Republicans. [They] think that government is almost always wasteful and it does too much better left to businesses and individuals. Business Conservatives differ from Steadfast Conservatives in their strong support for Wall Street and business more generally.”
If the Steadfast Conservatives are “the 99 percent,” the Business Conservatives represent “the one percent.” They share a disdain for Washington and “the liberate elite.” They venerate capitalism and believe the US would be better off in the hands off business leaders.
Key Trump message: I will get government out of your way by lowering taxes and eliminating regulations. Key constituent expectation: neutered government.
At the beginning of the Republican presidential nomination process, Ted Cruz was the champion of the Steadfast Conservatives, while Jeb Bush was the champion of the Business Conservatives. In the end, Trump defeated them both and managed to unite the disparate wings of the GOP; Trump convinced Republican voters he was an outsider who would “blow up” Washington.
3. Young Outsiders: Pew says, “This relatively young, largely independent group holds a mix of conservative and liberal views. And while more lean toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, Young Outsiders express unfavorable opinions of both major parties. They are skeptical of activist government; a substantial majority views government as wasteful and inefficient… A large majority of Young Outsiders (81%) think ‘poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return’.”
Key Trump message: I understand you because I am an outsider. Key constituent expectation: good jobs.
What unites Steadfast Conservatives, Business Conservatives, and Young Outsiders is their disdain for government. Beyond that, they have somewhat different objectives. Trump, with his rambling often inconsistent rhetoric was able to convince each group that he represented their interests.
4. Hard-Pressed Skeptics: Trump built his winning coalition by including just enough Hard-Pressed Skeptics. Pew says, “Deeply financially-stressed and distrustful of government, Hard-Pressed Skeptics lean toward the Democratic Party but have reservations about both political parties… Hard-Pressed Skeptics are dissatisfied with conditions in the country and their communities… [They] have the lowest family incomes of any of the typology groups.”
Trump reached these workers with the promise he would bring their jobs back by cancelling bad trade deals and penalizing companies who move good jobs out of America.
Key Trump message: I will bring your jobs back. Key constituent expectation: good jobs.
Immigration and Race: Pew observes that most of the four Trump groups have very conservative beliefs about immigration and race. “Steadfast Conservatives view immigrants as a burden (73%) and as a threat to traditional values (81%)… About eight-in-ten [Hard-Pressed Skeptics] say immigrants are a burden because they take jobs, housing and health care.”
The Trump groups believe the “civil-rights era” should be over, “About eight-in-ten Business (83%) and Steadfast Conservatives (81%) agree that the U.S. has made the changes needed to give blacks equal rights with whites.”
Steadfast Conservatives are the most demonstrably racist of the four groups.
Expectations: Steadfast Conservatives expect Trump to “build the wall” and to expel undocumented immigrants from the US. Business Conservatives expect Trump to cut taxes, eliminate regulations, and disband Federal agencies that are perceived to be anti-business — such as the EPA. Young Outsiders and Hard-Pressed Skeptics expect good jobs.
Trump may be able to build part of a wall, and expel some undocumented, and cut taxes and eliminate regulations, but he will find big-time job creation a more difficult challenge. As I noted last month (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-burnett/trumps-first-mistake_b_13044048.html) Trump seems unlikely to expend his political capital on a massive publicly-funded infrastructure — which is the one proven way to quickly create hundreds of thousands of decent jobs.
Trump will play to his Steadfast Conservative and Business Conservative bases. He will disappoint (and disgust) the rest of the electorate, which will be an opportunity for Democrats.