The latest Huffington Post Poll of Polls shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 47.1 percent to 39.7 percent. Many political observers feel that Trump's voter "ceiling" is 40 percent of the electorate. Who are these voters?
Two years ago, Pew Research Center released a typology of American politics. The typology distinguished between three classes of voters: the general public, registered voters, and the "politically engaged." In the category "politically engaged" there were three categories of Republicans: "Steadfast Conservatives: socially conservative populists" at 19 percent; "Business Conservatives: Pro-Wall street, pro-immigrant" at 17 percent; "Young Outsiders: conservative views on government, not on social issues" at 11 percent.
In addition, there is a swing group of Democrats, "Hard Pressed Skeptics: Financially stressed and pessimistic" at 9 percent. These are "Reagan Democrats."
Given the Pew data, the hard-core Trump base is probably composed of "Steadfast Conservatives" and "Young Outsiders" for 30 percent. (This is roughly the size of the Tea Party movement.) It's safe to assume that some Business Conservatives and some Hard-Pressed Skeptics also support Trump. Thus, the core Trump vote is likely to be 30-40 percent of the portion of the electorate that are probable voters.
In March, Bill Moyers interviewed Dr. Robert Jones whose organization conducted the "American Values Survey." Dr. Jones said that Trump voters: "... are best understood not as values voters, not even as Tea Party voters, but as nostalgia voters, these voters that are looking back to -- they're culturally and economically disaffected voters that are anxious to hold on to a white conservative Christian culture that's passing from the scene." [Emphasis added] The Trump voters are united by their skepticism about government: both the perceived failings of the Obama Administration (and, by association, Hillary Clinton) and their negative feelings about immigration. They are fearful and angry.
On July 7th, Gallup profiled the differences between Trump voters and Clinton voters. Trump voters are overwhelmingly White, male, elderly, and uneducated (57 percent of white voters without a college degree support Trump; 52 percent of white voters with a college degree support Clinton.)
The New Yorker's George Saunders spent several months following the Trump campaign. He observed:
From the beginning, America has been of two minds about the Other. One mind says, be suspicious of it, dominate it, deport it, exploit it, enslave it, kill it as needed. The other mind denies that there can be any such thing as the Other, in the face of the claim that all are created equal.
The first mind has always held violence nearby, to use as needed, and that violence has infused everything we do--our entertainments, our sex, our schools, our ads, our jokes, our view of the earth itself, somehow even our food. It sends our young people abroad in heavy armor, fills public spaces with gunshots, drives people quietly insane in their homes.
And here it comes again, that brittle frontier spirit, that lone lean guy in our heads, with a gun and a fear of encroachment. But he's picked up a few tricks along the way, has learned to come at us in a form we know and have forgotten to be suspicious of, from TV: famous, likably cranky, a fan of winning by any means necessary, exploiting our recent dullness and our aversion to calling stupidity stupidity, lest we seem too precious.
Trump voters are afraid and angry. They are uneducated White men who fear that they have been left behind.
Donald Trump knows how to harness this fear. He's "famous, likably cranky, a fan of winning by any means necessary."
Fortunately, at the moment, the voters Trump appeals to are a minority of the electorate.