Trump Supporters Are Way More Likely Than Clinton Supporters To Think Their Lives Are Getting Worse

Voters see the changes wrought by the last 50 years very differently.
It's a matter of perspective.
It's a matter of perspective.
Bill Boch via Getty Images

There’s no shortage of differences between Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s supporters, who seem to disagree on everything from the benefits of immigration to the state of the economy.

But a new survey shows that one of the deepest fault lines lies along a far more personal metric: whether voters feel things have improved or gotten worse for people like them.

Voters’ answers were divided along a number of demographics. Black and Hispanic voters, those under age 30, and those with a postgraduate education are more likely than not to say things are on the upswing, while older voters and those without a college education are considerably less positive.

There’s a much wider gulf, though, along political lines.

Hillary Clinton’s supporters say by a 40-point margin that life has gotten better for people like them in the last 50 years, according to a Pew Research survey released Thursday. Trump supporters say by a 70-point margin that it’s gotten worse.

“The demographic that I think most people would look at first is race, but it’s nothing compared to the candidate divide,” said Jocelyn Kiley, Pew’s associate director of research. “I think it does speak to some of the dynamics of the campaign.”

Is past or present better for people like you? Trump, Clinton supporters differ

Voters’ opinions do mirror the tonal contrasts between the two campaigns and their parties, from the almost aggressively feel-good tone of the Democratic National Convention to the nearly dystopian grimness of its Republican counterpart.

Partisans, perhaps reacting to their party’s cues, are increasingly divided as well ― in March, Republicans were 38 points likelier than Democrats to say things were getting worse for people like them. The margin is now 49 points.

There’s not a lot of historical precedent for the question, which Pew only started asking this year. But the vagueness about what exactly is meant by “people like you,” which is left up to each voter to define, may help it reflect the diffuse sense of disenfranchisement that seemingly underlies much of Trump’s campaign.

“You could ask about whether life is better for [specific groups like] women or men, but everyone has multiple considerations when they think about people like them,” Kiley said.

Exactly which of those considerations has left Trump’s supporters feeling so disenchanted ― and to what extent race and class play a role ― has been the subject of much debate. A recent analysis from Gallup found that while people with positive views of Trump aren’t earning less money than other Americans, they are likelier to live in communities struggling in other ways.

“Is Donald Trump’s political ascent the result of American racism or economic anxiety? The simple answer is yes,” HuffPost’s Zach Carter wrote earlier this week.

Regardless of the exact cause, it’s clear that Trump’s supporters, unlike Clinton’s, feel their place in the nation has become increasingly precarious. And they’re not optimistic about the future, either. Sixty-eight percent of Trump’s supporters, but just 30 percent of Clinton’s, predict that life will be worse for the next generation of Americans.

Pew surveyed 2,010 adults between Aug. 9 and Aug. 16, using live interviewers to reach both landlines and cell phones.

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