The unholy alliance of Trump voters

Posted: 8 September 2017 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


It wasn’t a homogeneous block—whether the white working-class or anti-immigrant nativists or the victims of globalization—that put Donald Trump into the White House. That’s the kind of reductionist narrative that has proliferated both before and after the fateful 2016 presidential election, all in an attempt to make sense of Trump’s “base.”

Instead, it was a complex coalition of voters, with different resentments and desires, that combined, at least via the electoral college (but not, of course, in the popular vote), to defeat Hillary Clinton and elect Trump.

That’s the conclusion arrived at by Emily Ekins [ht: db] of the Cato Institute and the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group.

According to Ekins, there were five unique clusters of Trump voters—American Preservationists (20 percent), Staunch Conservatives (31 percent), Anti-Elites (19 percent), Free Marketeers (25 percent), and the Disengaged (5 percent)—who hold very different views on a wide variety of issues, including immigration, race, American identity, moral traditionalism, international trade, and economics.

Here’s how Ekins describes these different clusters:

Staunch Conservatives are steadfast fiscal conservatives, embrace moral traditionalism, and have a moderately nativist conception of American identity and approach to immigration.

Free Marketeers are small government fiscal conservatives, free traders, with moderate to liberal positions on immigration and race. (Their vote was a vote primarily against Clinton and not a vote for Trump.)

American Preservationists lean economically progressive, believe the economic and political systems are rigged, have nativist immigration views, and a nativist and ethnocultural conception of American identity.

Anti-Elites lean economically progressive, believe the economic and political systems are rigged, and take relatively more moderate positions on immigration, race, and American identity than American Preservationists. They are also the most likely group to favor political compromise.

The Disengaged do not know much about politics, but what they do know is they feel detached from institutions and elites and are skeptical of immigration.

Call it the “unholy alliance” of Trump voters—clusters of people who had different motivations in mind when they went to the voting booth.


A good example of their diversity is their response to the question, do you have favor raising taxes on families with incomes over $200,000 a year? Overwhelming majorities of American Preservationists and Anti-Elites (and a plurality of the Disengaged) favor raising taxes, while Staunch Conservatives and Free Marketeers are opposed.


Much the same differences arise when asked if the economic system in the United States is biased in favor of the wealthiest Americans.

In fact, Ekins found only four issues that clearly distinguish Trump voters from non-Trump voters: an intense dislike of Clinton, a more dismal view of their personal financial situations, support for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration, and opposition to illegal immigration. Otherwise, as Ekins explains, Trump voters diverge on a wide variety of salient issues, including taxes, entitlements, immigration, race, pluralism, traditionalism, and social conservatism.

As I see it, Ekins’s analysis of Trump voters is significant for two reasons: First, it reveals how complex—and shaky or unstable—the coalition is. It’s going to make it difficult for Trump and the Republican Congress to govern in any kind of unified fashion. Second, it creates real opportunities for the political opposition, depending on how it reorganizes itself in the months and years ahead and whether or not it is able to move beyond the Clinton-dominated wing of the Democratic Party, to peal off significant numbers of Trump voters.

That’s only possible if, as Ekins writes, we acknowledge that “different types of people came to vote for Trump and not all for the same reasons.”

  1. Jonathan Diskin says:

    Hey, this is helpful typology and from a conservative/libertarian think tank that also wants to avoid being swallowed by the broad brush whale. We should have more, but this disaggregation helps avoid a kind of ‘basket of deplorable’ kind of reductionism (though Hillary said it was only a small part of the electorate) and suggests point of overlap with more left leaning groupings, as you noted. Thanks.

  2. Charles Fitzsimmons says:

    Why not ? He did run as the “None of the Above” candidate. Either he was or was a placebo

  3. Interesting analysis in an era where the MSM and Clinton – Obama Democrats try and paint all Trump supporters and even anyone who questions their resist at every turn and at any cost tactics of being neo-Nazi, white supremacists and/or Russian stooges.

  4. Stephen J Patterson says:

    Where are the Evangelicals in this study? They comprise 25% of the vote and most of them broke for Trump. Why Evangelical Christians went for a bonafied hesthen like Trump is something worthy of study.

  5. Robert Beal says:

    Right, you say:
    “In fact, Ekins found only four issues that clearly distinguish Trump voters from non-Trump voters: an intense dislike of Clinton,..”

    Ekins says:
    “First, they share an intense dislike of Clinton—about 9 in 10 of each group has an unfavorable opinion of her. In fact, animus toward Clinton following the 2016 campaign exceeds animus directed toward Barack Obama after the 2012 campaign within each of the five Trump voting blocs.”

    And, still, as another commenter points out–it was the Russians.

  6. […] Posted: 8 September 2017 in Uncategorized Tags: economics, election, Hillary Clinton, identity, immigration, politics, race, trade, Trump, United States, voters 6 […]

  7. Matt says:

    Ta-Nehisi Coates already answered this question much better than this Cato Institute study.

    • Lucy says:

      I agree completely that Ta-Nehisi Coates’ interpretation of the available data is much better. Read his article in the October issue of Atlantic Magazine.

  8. dougie-fresh says:

    Unfortunately Mr. Coates apparently needs to reduce people to categories and actors in a pantomime of racial plunder to support his worldview

  9. David F. Ruccio says:

    Here, for readers, is a direct link to the Coates essay on Trump voters:

  10. Robert Pierson says:

    I think that their is one group that is more responsible than those mentioned. It is women and a certain type of women that put Trump in office. Only a sadomasochist women would vote and approve of someone who would treat women like Trump was proven to do. If there were not a large number of women like this Trump would have never come close to being elected. And from what I see on TV interviews they are still his strongest supporters. Masochists love a good sadist to beat and abuse them so that they can claim to be victims just like Trump.

    • Andre says:

      Your psychological characterization is somewhat accurate, though crudely put. The vast majority of (working) men and women in our society are trained from an early age to OBEY AUTHORITY. We learn this from school, parents, television, the neighborhood bully; but this is especially true for young girls, who learn from an early age that (some) boys are louder, more-aggressive, that girls are expected to submit, “cooperate”, fit in.

      By the time we reach adulthood, most working men and women (especially) have been so disconnected from their own, critical-thinking capacity that they look upon the STATE authority as a protector. Or, we look upon it like a kind of ” Stockholm Syndrome “, where the captive/abused begin to look upon their oppressor as a friend, lover, father-figure.

      Thus, even though many (conservative) women find Trump’s language unpleasant, they admire his power to say it and get away with it.

      But similar patterns could be found with liberal women who might occasionally admit to fantasies towards Bill Clinton when he was President, in spite of his womanizing.

      On a deeper level, it IS masochistic, repressed sexual energy. More-immediately, its about the ‘sexiness’ of power, and the (infantile) instinct to submit to authority. What’s interesting about many Trump voters is the rebellious anger which accompanies their submission to authority: classic fascist pattern.

      • Crazy Horse says:

        The vast majority of (working) men and women in our society are trained from an early age to OBEY AUTHORITY. We learn this from school, parents, television, the neighborhood bully; but this is especially true for young girls, who learn from an early age that (some) boys are louder, more-aggressive, that girls are expected to submit, “cooperate”, fit in.

        It’s interesting that that training did not influence the views of those (non-working) men and women. Neither did it influence your views, evidently. 🙂

        It only influenced, it seems, the views of those (working) people.

  11. glomar7 says:

    There’s going to be hell to pay for the infantile fascism that stuck it’s ugly genital in the ballot box in 2016. The damage to every agency of government is staggering, some say irreversible, and all is following the Mussolini guide book: delegitimize and neuter the legislature, pack the benches with complicit judges, pervert the education system, and go all in for a war economy. Thanks lemmings, how far is it to Near Term Human Extinction?

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