Populism and White Middle Class: Who Are Trump Voters?

Populism and White Middle Class:  Who Are Trump Voters?

The Democracy Fund Voter’s project identified Trump’s 2016 supporters as being in five different groups:  American Preservationists (20%), Staunch Conservatives (31%), Anti-Elites (19%), Free Marketeers (25%), and the Disengaged (5%).  Each of these groups has different reasons for voting for Trump,  In many cases, it was holding your nose to vote against Hillary.  Others supported Trump because they believe in him.  Many pundits and pollsters alike underestimated the coalition of middle class Trump voters.  They overlooked the angst among many voters, including Republicans.  They made Trump an attractive alternative.  Even today, Trump’s appeal is truly not fully understood.

Staunch Conservatives

White Middle Class Trump Voters

Staunch conservatives embrace fiscal discipline and moral traditionalism.  This includes a moderate restriction view of immigration.  During the primaries, they comprised the second major tier among core Trump supporters.  Ted Cruz was their second choice rejecting what they consider traditional establishment Republicans.  Since the election, their support for Trump has been steadfast.  Many of these Republicans are slightly older and more male than female.  But, they are also upper middle class white voters with moderate levels of education.  They can’t really be described as the working class that one associates with Trump.  However, they are partially the conservative wing of the Party.  This is the grass roots.

These white middle class voters are often members of the NRA.  They own guns and are the most politicaly active.  Simply put, they are aware of political issues.  They are skeptical of immigration, legal or illegal but not to the extent of the preservationists.  They are small government fiscal conservatives.  Along with the Free Marketeers, they hold a disdain for higher taxes on the wealthy, business regulations and government run health care while supporting free trade.  They hold traditional skepticism of environment issues and conventional conservative positions on social issues such as single sex marriage and abortion.

Free Marketeers

Free Marketeers contain the most educated and highest paid of all of Trump voters.  They are more likely working full time, own their homes and have private health insurance.  They are more cosmopolitan, more likely to know gay people and the least likely to watch TV.  Plus, like Staunch Conservatives they are politically active and informed.  They view the free market as solving many economic problems better than strong government.  And, they favor immigration reform and believe immigration is good for the country.  Many within this group are considered Libertarian Republicans.


Preservationists are the least loyal to Republicans.  Trump’s nationalism appeals to them.  However, at least half viewed Clinton positively back in 2012.  This group are the key group that launched Trump.  They can accurately be described as Trump Republicans.  These are Republicans whose loyalty was to Trump as opposed to Republicans.  They have the lowest level of education and income among Trump voters.  As a group, they are more likely to need government assistance.  This explains why they are not eager for major cuts in entitlements.  Their Christian identity is important to them.  However, they don’t necessarily go to Church.

They not only oppose illegal immigration but, want to see legal immigration levels decline.  They don’t view immigration as a benefit.  And, they have a Nativist view of America.


President Trump

Anti-Elites, like Preservationists, view the economic system as rigged.  However, they take a more moderate position on immigration.  They most likely favor compromise and describe themselves as non-label voters.  They are not as excited about Trump as the Preservationist.  But, they liked Clinton in 2012 and turned against her in 2016.  This group is younger with a moderate level of education.  They have no problem taxing the wealthy.  While they are more liberal than other Republicans, they are more conservative on issues like immigration when compared to Democrats who moved sharply left.

The Disengaged

The last group of Trump supporters are the disengaged.  These are not particularly active in politics. They feel detached from the institutions around them.  Like many of the Trump coalition, they are skeptical of immigration.  They are younger, female and secular when it comes to religious beliefs.  Trump’s stance on immigration closed the deal for them.

The Coalition – Middle Class Trump Voters

When viewing the Trump coalition, you see many are attracted less by economic conservatism.  They are swayed by more traditional values.  Trump talked about putting America first and making America great again.  This is a warning sign for Republicans.  A major failure on their part will send a good portion of Trump Republicans scurrying to a more progressive candidate such as a future version of Bernie Sanders.

The future of Populism in a Trumps failure could be an American version of Marine Le Pen who moved sharply to the left on economic issues in the past French election.  She went so far that many of her positions were not markedly different from hard left candidates.  The data shows there is an underlying feeling that the system is rigged.  Many simply don’t trust the Republican leadership.

Stanley Greenberg observed:

“Even though they are defending Trump now, many were shaken by some of the doubts we tested.  Some became exasperated, when we got to the right “drain the swamp” critique – a critique of his cabinet of “million-dollar campaign donors, [bailed out] bankers from Goldman Sachs and people who used undocumented workers in their homes.”

Also concerning to them is the prospect of his promised middle class tax going mostly to the top 1 percent.  This includes a $4 billion break for the Trump family.  These doubts make Trump appear like a typical politician.  It leads to its back to the same “bullshit… A majority of these voters were very open to Democrats like Senators Brown, Sanders and Warren who oppose trade deals, want to protect consumers from Wall Street and oppose corporate tax breaks.”


Breitbart’s Virgil notes:

“In the decades since, observers have tracked the influence of MARs (Middle American Radicals) through the candidacies of such disparate figures as Dick Gephardt, Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, and even Bill Clinton—who carried the country in both 1992 and 1996. The common thread running through all these political flirtations was a deep-seated disaffection from the system, which led MARs to mistrust all politicians, especially incumbents.  They have always been looking for a fresh populist face, of whatever party, who would “shake things up.”

The Trump coalition is not permanent.  However, it is one that needs to be nursed and expanded on.  A failure will cripple conservatism, small government philosophy and the Republican Party.  Accordingly, we will face the specter of two big government parties.

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