Trump’s Base

Updated:
Posted in: Politics

Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a two-part series.

We have been hearing about Donald Trump’s “base” since he entered the GOP primaries in 2015. Both political commentators and the candidate himself have often talked about these core supporters, particularly as Trump succeeded as a candidate. Halfway through the GOP primaries, Trump famously announced: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn’t lose voters.” He was emphasizing the loyalty of his supporters. Of course, he proceeded to capture the GOP nomination, and then almost 63 million people voted for him in November, giving him the Electoral College win that made him president.

Trump’s base fascinates me, because I am not sure whether they have clearly been identified, and I believe they are the key to understanding his success. Being a political junkie, I have read countless post-election articles and several books analyzing the outcome of the 2016 presidential race. But there is no clear understanding of exactly who is a part of the Trump base, or why they support him. Clearly, not everyone who voted for him is part of his base. Many (probably millions) held their nose to vote for him, but did so because they were vehemently anti-Hillary Clinton. Today, they are anything but pro-Trump.

Hillary addressed Trump’s core supporters in her post-election memoir, What Happened, but she only broadly describes them. She writes that 13.3 million people voted for Trump in the Republican primaries, adding it was safe to say these folks were “mostly hard-core supporters,” the supporters who would still be with him if he shot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue. Hillary notes, “Thirteen million is a lot of people to strongly support someone most Americans think is unqualified and unfit,” as the polls at the time indicated, but she explains these primary voters accounted for “less than half of all Republican primary voters and less than 10 percent of all general election voters.” (Nearly 139 million people voted in the 2016 presidential election. While this was a record number, it was only sixty percent of 232 million Americans eligible to vote, not to mention about 86 percent of the 160 million registered voters.) Hillary does not further examine Trump’s base. But following his GOP primary, Trump clearly picked up additional serious supporters, many if not most coming from the ranks of Senator Ted Cruz’s supporters.

Polling has offered varying and differing identifications of Trump’s base. As the Washington Post pointed out, in June of last year, myriad polls have suggested Trump’s core voters to be low-educated, white working-class men, but later polls proved this was not an accurate portrait of his base, which, in fact, had a higher-than-average incomes. Regardless of whom you include or exclude in Trump base—and I will return to that subject in Part 2 of this column—what has been most striking is that his base appears to be shrinking.

In August 2017, the Trump-supporting Washington Examiner announced: “Data show that Trump’s real base is 24 percent of the electorate.” Kristen Soltis Anderson, a professional Republican pollster, analyzed the then-released polls of the leading polling organizations (CNN, Politico, ABC News, Monmouth University, and Gallup), to explain Trump’s shrinking support, and observe that it was even lower than his approval/disapproval numbers. She concluded: “The data—on issues and on Trump himself—keep pointing back to ‘one-in-four’ as the true size of Trump’s base. It is around one in four who like the tweeting, like the insults, the things other people say are mean or unproductive behavior.” Ms. Anderson concluded from these number last August that the GOP was in serious trouble. Since then, however, Trump’s support has further deteriorated.

A year after Trump’s win, and eleven months into his presidency, long-time pollster Bill Schneider reported on the November 2017 NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, which had Trump’s job approval rating down to 38 percent, with 81 percent of Republicans still standing by their president. Schneiderman explained the glue binding Trump to his core supporters was their shared sense of defiance. But the approval number was again misleading. I did the kind of second pass that Kristen Anderson had done in August, and Trump no longer had even 24 percent on key issues from his base. And his numbers have continued to trend down, as CNN reported in December 2017. Trump’s support is shrinking across the board, with all identifiable groups. While 24 percent may be as about low as Trump can go, and where his base will support him forever, it should be remembered that Richard Nixon resigned when his approval rating fell to 24 percent, because he did not believe a president could govern with so little approval. (Pew Research Center has collected Nixon’s falling numbers in a summary report.)

While I will never be known as a Nixon fan, I must say that he did understand the American presidency. Trump does not, and he will never resign. Nor does his base want him to ever resign, which brings me back to his supporters. There has been serious speculation that Trump’s base is composed of idiots. But the deeper one dives into examining these people the more incorrect it is to dismiss them with pejorative conjecture. Trump is going to be actively campaigning for Republicans in 2018 because he hopes to protect GOP control of Congress and has already announced he is running for reelection in 2020, so he needs to help the party survive the disaster he has given them. For those who shudder at the prospect of Trump having a second term, or Republicans maintaining control of both Houses of Congress, there is a key. It is better understanding Trump’s base. So, with this preface, I will proceed to explain these people in my next column.

Posted in: Politics

Tags: Politics

  • Brett

    The purpose of this article is puzzling; it seems to be a far-left liberal seeking consolation. Note that Mr. Dean cites liberal sources for his polling information. He, as with virtually all liberals, ignores the facts of the Trump presidency thus far (as they similarly ignored most of the facts of the Obama administration): unemployment is at a seventeen-year low (and unemployment among black Americans is the lowest it has ever been); a vast majority of Americans will soon have tax relief (with only one percent paying more, those being wealthy folks); ISIS is finally on the run and significantly weaker (a hideous group that formed and flourished during the Obama administration); illegal immigration is down; the stock market continues to hit record highs; large numbers of American workers are receiving bonuses as a direct result of the tax relief recently enacted; the number of employees in the bloated federal government has decreased (and the economy is on a robust clip at the same time, no coincidence there); and the burden of over-regulation by the federal government is finally be addressed and lessened. These facts obviously have much to do with Mr. Trump’s support, as well as a desire to weaken the bloated, inefficient federal government, and the entrenched government and “mainstream” media establishment that is living very well off of the taxpayers, and recognize the hard-working middle class who are funding most of the federal government and its too often reckless spending.

  • Elizabeth Blackthron

    Many self-appointed political gurus overlook an important component of Trumpism: it is decidedly pro-capitalism. Hillary Clinton was not just a lousy campaigner, she, and the Democratic party, are perceived as communists. She and her ilk will continue to be rejected by all who reject the reality of communism’s worst features: anti-Constitutionalism, internationalism, secularism/atheism, and wealth redistribution. With information about people being so readily available, politicians can no longer hide their true ideology and allegiances. Donald Trump represents Americanism, and for those who prefer America (as opposed to global welfare statism) warts and all, he is the political answer to an patriot’s prayer. The trouble with elites is that they are myopic, and intellectually dishonest. They prefer complicated analyses to simple truth. Americans do not want to buy the product the Left has been selling since 1917. That’s why his supporters cut across so many race/class/gender/education levels/age levels/issue orientations/and religious persuasions. To arrogant elites, he’s a true populist. To voters, he’s a true patriot.

    • April DiObilda Curry

      Your idea of what Americans want is not the reality. The truth is that the entire word is for progress and inclusiveness and this country is decidedly more conservative than the rest of the developed nations. The liberals here are just left of center any place else. To call people who disagree with your views un-American is exactly what a person says when they have no ability to be introspective and see the truth about themselves. The beauty of our bicameral system of governmment is that the two sides balance each other, but only when it is done the way it is supposed to. Neither side can say that they have the best policies 100% Of the time. We debate, we compromise and we find the best way to make it work for every one. The people in office represent their constituents whether they voted for someone else or not. The best of them have not forgotten that. A great conservative and supreme court justice named Antonin Scalia was talking to his dear friend And fellow supreme court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal who often vehemently opposed his opinions in court. He told her that the true national symbol was a pendulum, because when it starts tipping to one side a bit too much, it always swings back harder the other way. So it is best to remember that what you do now may feel like you have won, but whe balance shifts, watch out for the swing.
      Stop hating the other side as if you see other American citizens as the enemy. We all need to remember that and stop making the people we just happen to disagree with, the people we fight and see as “other”. The government is the way it is for an important reason. The founding fathers knew enough to understand that they could never predict what the world would be like today. That is why they made a system of checks and balances and made each branch of government accountable to the others. They are 3 co-equal branches. The reason we have the supreme court is so the tyranny of the majority will not stifle the rights of the minority. Everyone should be represented but it seems that far too many Americans have forgotten.He

      • I think you’re just feeding a time, and wasting other people’s time while they try to figure out what is going on. There is no possibility of rational or useful discussion with some people It does not matter if they are sincerely stupid, proudly ignorant, faith-filled fanatics, or just paid to fake it.

        • How often have you posted this same comment? — which amounts to arguing that trolls’ lying propaganda should be left unanswered to mislead others… in short, arguing in favor of the trolls.

    • The Constitution includes:
        • the Emoluments Clause (in Article I, Section 9, Clause 8, anti-foreign-bribery) — which Donald Trump has been violating daily since his Inauguration;

        • the Equal Protection Clause (in the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1, “No State shall… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”) — which Republican state governments (including Mike Pence’s before he became VP) have been merrily violating;

        • the Freedom of Religion Clause (in the First Amendment) — which Trump’s proposed, then several-times-attempted, “Muslim ban” blatantly violated, and was smacked down for that very reason;

        • the No Religious Test Clause (in Article VI, Section 3, “…but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”) — Q. “Would a Muslim judge also be out of the question here?” A. [Trump] “…It’s possible, yes.” (Face The Nation); and when Trump first proposed his “Muslim ban”, this particular topic also came up – “His campaign did not immediately respond to questions about whether it would also include Muslims who are U.S. citizens and travel outside of the country, including members of the military…. There are, for example, more than 5,800 servicemen and women on active U.S. military duty and in the reserves who self-identify as Muslim and could be assigned to serve overseas. Trump said later Monday in an interview on Fox News, ‘They’ll come home.'” – [as service members not allowed to serve overseas anymore? or as civilians thereafter? deponent didn’t say.]

      Yet it isn’t Trump, Pence, and the Republicans you accuse of “anti-Constitutionalism”.

      So it is interesting that you make accusations like “myopic, and intellectually dishonest.”

  • CaptainParker

    Just another “talking head” who doesn’t really understand who the “Trump base” consists of and why they are loyal to the President. Let me give you one clue. We despise all the anti-Trumpers who think they are intellectually superior and hold all of the moral high ground on every issue. You don’t…and that smarmy smugness is why Trump will be re-elected.

    • Dave

      Who is the Trump Base? Dean says he will talk about them in the second article. Beat him to the punch…

    • April DiObilda Curry

      It is funny that you just said that I think that I have some moral high ground on each issue and that is exactly the opposite of what I just said. No I don’t think I am superior intellectually or any other way. I am not anti- anything. I am someone who sees this divided country and is literally sick from watching this happen. You can play that game of division and rankor, but I am not going to play. I have a lot of friends who voted for Trump and I an able to speak with them and even sometimes disagree. I do not hate people just because they do not share my world view. I hate very few, if any, people. Ideas? Maybe I feel something that approaches hatred. Not people and especially not Americans. I

  • Frank Willa

    Mr Dean, thank you for taking on this important topic in understanding who supports Trump. In my view there are two basics groups that comprise his supporters. The first are the truly committed; they do like the “nasty, mean, and small minded agenda. I believe they are aligned because he thinks and says what they say, so the prejudice and disparagement of many is just what they think- in short “he is them”. The other broad category are those that do go along the path of the same notions, however they keep their prejudices and meanness either behind closed doors or only with other like minded people. Both categories are adherents of the “conservative agenda”: the hate the government, less taxes for the wealthy is good for everyone, less regulations- let the chips fall where they may no matter who gets hurt, and that only the conservatives are the “worthy people”; others are freeloaders causing harm to them and the country. So, the congress is mostly composed of the second category, it is not that they are unhappy being supporters, they just do not want to be outed for who they really are. In my opinion there are many who never embraced the changes to society that the 1960s brought about; civil rights, women’s rights, social programs like Medicare, environmental regulation, and restraints on commerce- especially banking. Nor did they adopt the change in social norms that those changes embodied. In my view this is about half of the country. They are proud of not changing, not interested in any new information to the contrary of their views, and think that their defense of their view is not meanness but a matter of courage and personal strength. They see themselves as standing up for what is right. If the base is not understood for what it is, then Trump and his adherents will continue in power. I believe that your previous commentaries concerning the “authoritarian” personality go long way in forming an understanding of the base. I would like to hope that the “arc of progress” of mankind and our nation will prevail, and Trump and his adherents will be relegated to history.

    • April DiObilda Curry

      I once read an article that talked on the question of why the evangelicals were supporting him. Basically, it said that he is exactly who they have been telling us they are. He is racist and sexist and is not “politically correct” (otherwise known as a dick). But only with certain politics because people who bitch about PC are only upset that you aren’t their version of PC. He is the embodiment of all the things they purport to be. They own it now and the stuff once hidden behind nice manners and coded language is now out in the open for all to see. They cannot deny it now so they must rationalize and perform mental gymnastics….No; mental acrobatics to make the decision seem cogent.
      They still have their dogwhistles and coded language and they will claim that none of it is true. They don’t hate women, they aren’t racist and how dare you say that they are. All while making some comments on an issue that demonstrates the fact.

      • According to “The Authoritarians”, a book that John Dean has mentioned before, they are one of the main groups of authoritarian followers. The evangelicals want to follow SOMEONE, and people like Trump are desperate to be followed. Not a symmetric relationship. I wish that he had said more about the structure of Trump’s base, so mostly I’m waiting to see the rest of his thoughts on the topic…

        However I’m actually more troubled by the broken party system in America. On one side you have the so-called Republicans, who now have a simple laser focus on making the rich richer. They also need to make the government more powerful and intrusive to keep the poor peasants and other countries from touching the rich people’s riches. The drivers of this part of “the system” are extremely greedy and they want ALL the money, ALL the goods, ALL the services, and some more besides.

        Meanwhile the Democratic Party has no strong focus at all. Just some vague ideas that the government can do good things and it should do those things for everyone. They were divided and conquered badly in the 2016 election, and it would greatly surprise me if they didn’t try to do it again this year. (Putin, too, but I think he’s mostly just exploiting the divisions we created all by ourselves and the mindless mushroom voters that we also cultivated by ourselves.)

  • Robert Imgrat

    Trump famously announced: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn’t lose voters.” I heard a story when he shoot in the sky in 2004 in Warsaw, Poland, next to the embassy of Belgium and saved a life of an innocent man. But this is not true, of course, because George W. Bush didn’t hear about it. Not to mention about the presence of John Paul II.

  • Robert Imgrat

    In this instance I think that I need add the timing: the story happened in the night of 12 January of 2004, after 1:30 a.m. I heard it only as a rumors.

  • Jill Kutzler

    When I read about low poll numbers for Trump and consider who is reporting them, I tend not to believe them. I live in mid America, I am a single mother and I am educated and I work, a lot of people support Trump who I know supported Obama in the past. You can report all you want about Trump being crazy, unfit, low poll numbers, he should resign but the truth is, many Americans will be bringing home more money, companies are giving bonuses which many companies have not done for years and companies like Apple are coming back to the U.S. . There’s your answer, this is why Trump does not and will not lose support as much as you would like to believe otherwise.

    It’s refreshing not read about another ISIS killing every other day, it is nice that the United States is respected again instead of being laughed at, it is nice that my President has my best interest at heart before other countries, my President is proud of our country and doesn’t apologize for us and watching the stock market climb after years of stagnation is the best of all.

  • Joe Paulson

    Yes, he is. #rimshot

  • John Lujan

    “(that continues to be true in police shooting cases)”
    She done lost me after this asinine comment of hers!

  • Dave

    Mr. Dean writes in an extraordinarily balanced way. The most negative thing he says about DJT is that his poll numbers are sliding (happens to all presidents) and he doesn’t understand the presidency. To read these comments you would think Mr. Dean had spit on Jesus. Because most don’t use their whole name makes me wonder if they are real people.

    • Most of those comments are coming from obvious trolls. I can’t see the old ones (just “This user is blocked”), but there’s a crop of fresh ones today. I say block them and move on. Doesn’t matter if they are sincere or paid to fake it. They are just wasting time.

      • You block BOTH the people who distribute lying propaganda AND the people who refute it so that it doesn’t stay around unanswered to catch later readers unaware — treating BOTH as “trolls”.

  • Dave

    Mr. Allen,
    The fact that you’ve referred to President Obama as a “disgusting piece of mixed race trash” and made a transparent threat to make him a “Mississippi wind-chime” seems evidence of what liberal reactionaries keep saying – “DJT and his supporters are racists.” Neither Mr. Dean nor I might go that far but the evidence to support this outrageous claim is building by the day. It is going to be very difficult to disprove one day soon.

    • Why are you feeding the troll? I’m beginning to suspect some of the fresh trolls have brought their own sock puppets to initiate fake discussions.

  • Dave

    Mr. Street, it was good to see that you write for Breitbart. I’m also glad to read that you are a University professor. According to Breitbart, University professors are liberal elites.

    • Again the pattern of a fresh but obvious troll and a weird reply.

  • April DiObilda Curry

    What status? My internet commenting status? You are attributing far too much to who you think your version of me is. I am just someone who sees that reasonable minds can differ and no one group is always correct.

    • midway54’s reply was to CaptainParker’s comment, not to yours.

  • That was so incoherent I could only figure out you’re to be blocked when I realized you were replying favorably to an already identified troll. G’bye.

  • Naw, he’s just a known troll. If paid, he probably gets a bonus when you feed him with your replies.

  • You’re just feeding a fresh troll. Not sure why there were relatively few of them over the last few months, but the supply has obviously been refreshed.

  • I have a different theory on the stock market. I think there are basically two factors in play. One is just the old stockbrokers’ joke about “Buy on the rumor, sell on the news.” Trump has created so many rumors that they keep buying and the prices keep rising.

    The other factor is the bubble. Essentially it’s now a computerized game where the computers are bidding things up on the theory that there is a bigger sucker ready to buy the shares at a higher price. There is no real value there, and especially no huge increase in value, just the fantasy of market caps increasing to infinity. At some point the bubble has to burst, but each of the players thinks that he’s the one who is smart enough to know when to get out.

  • Bzzzzt! on the contrary, the CDC says:

    Scientific research does not show a connection between thimerosal and autism. … Even after thimerosal was removed from almost all childhood vaccines, autism rates continued to increase, which is the opposite of what would be expected if thimerosal caused autism.

    Thimerosal was taken out of childhood vaccines in the United States in 2001.

    Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines do not and never did contain thimerosal. Varicella (chickenpox), inactivated polio (IPV), and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines have also never contained thimerosal.

    Influenza (flu) vaccines are currently available in both thimerosal-containing (for multi-dose vaccine vials) and thimerosal-free versions.