This Presidential race is closer than you might think or hope… “Do’h!” And the reason is: that despite the hatred, bigotry, and sexism of Donald Trump, his voters are NOT all idiots or closet racists. -Don’t get us wrong, some very much are- but support for The Donald goes deeper than that. So we wanted to take a look at Trump’s strongest demographic and what our research unveiled was that they look a lot more familiar than you think, especially if you watch cartoons on Fox. No, not Fox News, just the Fox Network on a Sunday night. Because the ideal Trump voter looks kind of like someone who might live in Springfield, Quahog, or Arlen, Texas.
President of the Hill
Thanks to polls and demographic studies conducted by the Washington Post, ABC News, Nate Silver, and 270towin.com we are able to get a much clearer picture of what a typical Trump supporter looks like, and they are exactly what you might expect. Please know that this is just a statistical average, as we realize that there are others who support The Donald who may not fit one of these categories. However, if you are voting for the Republican nominee it means that you are most likely to be: White, Male, Identify as Conservative, Heterosexual, Between the Ages of 40 and 65, Do Not Have a College Degree, Do Not Live In or Near a Major Metropolitan Area, and Are Making Around the Medium Household Income -AKA Middle-Class.
We know these aren’t exactly shocking statistics, however they are representative of a kind of common American, an Average Joe. It is the kind of representation we see every week on TV, especially in the form of Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, Hank Hill, and hundreds of other animated and non-animated typical TV father types, and that says something. We do not hate these characters, -well, most of the time- but at the very least we see them as well meaning buffoons. Hank Hill, for instance, is a true-blue Texan-American who like trucks, Reagan, and propane. In fact, the main conflict of his story is often that his conservative ideals must cope with the changing landscape of things like immigration, sexuality, and other uncomfortable topics. He doesn’t always handle them right, but we do not see him as the bad guy. He might be a little obtuse, but we know he is well meaning, and that would probably not be an unfair assessment of many Trump voters.
As fun or comforting as it might be to believe that all of Trump’s supporters are toothless raving racists or backward sexists stuck in a idealized 1950’s fantasy, these generalizations don’t help the contentious climate or the progress of our country. Don’t get us wrong, Donald Trump has certainly captured the white supremacists demographic, but we can’t believe that 39% of likely voters are just in it for the cross burning. These cartoon dads are upset over something and simply dismissing their votes as simple fear or protest is too simplistic. It also diminishes the possibly legitimate concerns of two-fifths of America’s voting population. So maybe there is more going on here.
Lost in Springfield
We, here at The NYRD, have lambasted Trump in the past, and proven why he would make an unfit President, but this article is not about The Donald, himself. It is about his voters and why people have chosen to follow him. There are several factors, but if you really look at the statistics the most undeniable conclusion is that a lot of Trump voters are people who feel voiceless. Most of them are low to middle class white men, over the age of 40 who feel as if the country has left them behind. They are the Homer Simpsons of the world, living in some generic Springfield and wondering why their American dream means going from paycheck to paycheck while the Mr. Burns of the world rule over them from a super-villain-like position of power. The irony is that they have basically chosen a “Mr. Burns” to combat the rest of the Mr. Burns out there, but for them the choice does still makes some amount of sense. They believe no one is paying attention to them, and they’re not exactly wrong.
According to survey form the RAND Corporation, likely voters who agreed with the statement: “people like me don’t have any say about what the government does” were 86.5% more likely to be for Trump, and we kind of get it. Listen, we are born and bred New Yorkers, living in a liberal bastion of progress and sewer rats, but if you are Homer Simpson living in a -presumably- Midwestern small town you understand that there are no TV shows or movies that take place where you live. The celebrities, politicians, and wealthy 1% don’t always share your values, and the sources of your media and entertainment come mainly from LA or NY. To rural America, the cities get all the attention and control all the culture. For our part, the coasts export our ideals as if they are universal, but maybe Ned Flanders or other fundamentalist might disagree. Right or wrong, Trump supporters are the ones who feel sandwiched in the middle and lost in the mix. After all, it can be incredibly frustrating when it feels like you aren’t even being heard at all. So without a voice they have seemingly decided to pick the loudest person in the room to speak for them, which is not all bad because they do have some legitimate complaints.
A lot of the small towns around the United States have fallen on hard economical times. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 61% of the total job losses under NAFTA were relatively high paying manufacturing jobs, centered heavily in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California. In small town ares, like Springfield, if the main source of employment dries up or moves to foreign soil that can be devastating for residents. If Mr. Burns were to close the nuclear power plant a lot of Springfield would be out of a job, and towns like that -with low populations- cannot simply shift to a service-based economy, like what has happened in New York, Chicago, or other big US cities. There is a reason that Trump usually scores the highest in debates when the candidates are talking about trade agreements or economical issues. Those are some of the most important things for those disenfranchised voters. Unfortunately, their justifiable grievance are often lost in the rhetoric of racial tension also spewed by The Donald, not that most of them mind. To them, that tension is also a direct result of some of the other things we have been discussing.
Now, let’s be clear we’re not saying they are right, but for a lot of Trump voters their economic troubles tie in with the questions of race and immigration. A lot of the Peter Griffins of the world look at the top 5% of American earners and see that their income has doubled, while minimum wage has barely moved. They can look at Washington and see a place that looks like it is doing everything it can to improve the lives of African Americans in the “inner cities,” but wonder why no one is doing the same for them. After all, it is usually politically savvy to at least talk about how you will improve the “inner cities,” -even if nothing gets done- but some poor rural white communities don’t even get that kind of lip-service. Meanwhile, they also watch as politicians talk about immigrants and refugees coming into the country, and to the person barely making end’s meat for their family, that could mean more workplace competition and a feeling that someone else might be getting something without putting in the same effort that they did. It is the beginning of resentment and misunderstanding, and Donald Trump -for all his many faults- understands how to harness that frustration.
Peter Griffin does not see himself as a racist, after all he has Cleveland as a friend… and that counts… right?… In their mind, even if people like Peter blame Mexicans for certain things or those “other” black people for things they are not going to self-identify as bigots. That is important to understand too, because when people and the media portray Trump supporters as hatred spewing Klan members a lot of them -ironically- feel as if they are being stereotyped, and that turns them off to any thoughtful engagement of the issues. It doesn’t help that Trump often sets up the media as being unfairly out to get him -despite the fact that they have given him at least $2 billion in free advertising and counting. This feeling of persecution only further hardens the resolve of Trump voters and drives them away from active engagement. In a sense, even the most reasonable people can start to become hardened to reasoning when they feel as if everyone from journalists to the Republican leadership is turning them into some ignorant, hillbilly, backwater cartoon parody, which is something movies and TV have done for years. After all, even in Rhode Island, a liberal state, there are still plenty of Peter Griffins and plenty of disenfranchised Trump voters.
And maybe you have noticed that is part of the problem. You see, while discussing the topic of not reducing all likely Trump voters to stereotypes or caricatures, we have done just that. We are comparing them to cartoon dads, like Peter Griffin or Homer Simpson, and though that comparison is wildly clever and comical, it is also a reduction of real people and the issues they care about. So why do we do it? Mostly because it is funny. While we here, at the NYRD, pride ourselves on being inclusive and examining the major topics of the day in thoughtful and complex ways, we have also found that we are not above making generalizations when it comes to making jokes, and Donald Trump and his followers sometimes make that too easy. Remember, that the statistically average supporter of The Donald is also the last demographic that America has agreed is still okay to make fun of: white, middle-aged, middle-class, men. That is why we have the stereotype of the stupid and fat cartoon dad to begin with, and that is also one of the reasons why these voters feel as if they have been pushed to the fringe.
For some, Donald Trump is a flare fired off in a crowded room. He is the loudest and most obnoxious thing they could find to make everyone notice them. Yes, he might be dangerous and others might get hurt, but at least -for them- something might change. Still for others, they may recognize he is crass, abrasive, and more than a bit myopic, but at least he is talking to them. Two-fifths of likely voters will cast a ballot for Donald Trump. So maybe instead of reducing their views as being crazy or racist, we need to do more to understand why they feel the need to vote for an orange misogynistic demagogue, even if he is not someone they would ever leave their daughters alone with. Nothing is going to change if, after this election, we just reduce Trump voters to cartoons and shuffle on with another 4 years as if nothing happened. We love people like Peter Griffin, Homer Simpson, and Hank Hill, but they are stuck in a perpetual state of animation. They and their families don’t even age, and they often have little to no lasting character development. We can’t afford to let so many in our country feel the same way for even another season.