Saturday, March 12, 2016

Who Likes Herr Trumpf? It May Shock You To Find Out


When presumptive Republican nominee, Herr Trumpf, remarks ominously-- as he often does-- that he hasn't even started on Hillary yet, what he means is that he hasn't started tearing the most ethically flawed Democratic nominee in decades to shreds. There is as much material for him to use to brand her with as is there for the Democrats-- who aren't nearly as good at it as he is-- to use to brand him with. If these two sub-par candidates is the best their parties can do, America is in more trouble than most scholars have supposed.

Thursday, three scholars-- Alan Abramowitz, Ronald Rapoport and Walter Stone-- penned a guest post for Sabato's Crytsal Ball which provides some valuable insight into why Herr Trumpf is winning and what the impact of that win will be on the GOP. And... it's not just the racism and bigotry per se. Herr Trumpf, they wrote "has achieved his frontrunner status by appealing to a large group of Republican voters who are fed up with their party’s established leadership" and they see him as the "most divisive" frontrunner.

In their research, they asked respondents (Republican and independent voters) to rate the major Republican candidates on a seven-point scale with ratings of "superior," "far above average," "slightly above average," "average," "slightly below average," "far below average," and "poor." Of all of the major candidates, Trump received the highest percentage of "superior" and "far above average" ratings and the highest percentage of "far below average" and "poor" ratings. That indicates the roots of divisiveness. And here's how it could play out: "a large proportion of Republican voters indicated that if Trump is the Republican nominee they would defect to an independent mainstream conservative candidate in the general election. Given a choice of voting for Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney as an independent, or Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, only 64% of Republican voters chose Trump while 30% chose Romney and 6% chose Clinton. Among those not supporting Trump for the Republican nomination, Romney actually led Trump by 46% to 45% with 9% choosing Clinton." So why the great divergence of opinion among GOP voters? They examined the relationship between Trump support and a variety of factors that have been identified as possibly explaining reactions to Trump’s candidacy: authoritarianism, nativism and economic liberalism.
We measured authoritarianism by asking respondents to agree or disagree with the statement that “what this country needs is a strong leader to shake things up in Washington.” Fifty-nine percent of Republican voters strongly agreed with this statement and among that group, 50% ranked Trump first and only 14% ranked him last. In contrast, among the 17% of Republican voters who were classified as low on authoritarianism by either agreeing only slightly or disagreeing with this statement, only 20% ranked Trump first and 48% ranked him last.

Nativism was measured by three questions asking respondents to agree or disagree with a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, a proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border, and a proposal to deport all illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. All three proposals elicited strong support from Republican voters. In fact, there was a higher degree of consensus on these issues than on any of the economic or cultural issues in our survey. Fifty-one percent of Republican voters strongly favored building a wall along the Mexican border, 57% strongly favored deporting illegal immigrants, and 37% strongly favored a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. Fully 28% of Republican voters strongly favored all three of these proposals.

...[N]ativist attitudes were very strongly related to where respondents ranked Donald Trump. Among those scoring low on nativism, only 16% ranked Trump first while 47% ranked him last. In contrast, among those scoring high on nativism, 60% ranked Trump first and only 6% ranked him last. Nativist attitudes were, in fact, the single strongest predictor of support for Trump.

In addition to authoritarianism and nativism, economic attitudes also predicted support for Trump. In contrast to most other Republican presidential candidates and, indeed, most other prominent Republican officeholders, Trump has sometimes veered from conservative orthodoxy on economic issues. For example, he has publicly opposed cuts in Social Security and Medicare or plans to privatize either of these entitlement programs. He has, at times, suggested that wealthy Americans should pay higher taxes, although the official tax plan released by his campaign actually called for significant cuts in taxes on the wealthy. Finally, even as he has joined all of the other major presidential candidates in calling for repealing Obamacare, Trump has repeatedly promised to replace it with something “amazing” that would preserve many of its benefits and occasionally hinted that he agreed with the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate-- a position that he subsequently walked back.

...Republican voters were actually quite divided on these issues with a large proportion taking the liberal side in opposition to the position of most Republican leaders. Fully 68% of Republican voters were opposed to cutting spending on Social Security and Medicare to reduce the deficit, 56% favored raising taxes on households with incomes above $250,000, and 39% favored raising the minimum wage... [E]conomic liberalism was related to whether respondents ranked Trump first among our 11 GOP candidates but not to whether they ranked him last. Fifty-one percent of those who scored high on economic liberalism ranked Trump first compared with only 23% of those who scored low on economic liberalism... [R]eactions to Trump’s candidacy among Republican voters reflect his message-- a combination of negative attitudes toward outgroups such as Muslims and immigrants and support for some liberal economic policies that benefit the middle class. In other words, Trump is running as a kind of populist.

...The combination of these three predictors [nativism, economic liberalism and authoritarianism] provides a powerful explanation of support for Donald Trump among Republican voters. The percentage of Republican voters choosing Trump as their first choice ranges from only 5% among those at the low end of the scale to 71% among those at the high end of the scale.

Why Trump loves the poorly educated (and the less affluent)

These findings raise an additional question: What kinds of Republican voters tend to score highest on the factors that predict Trump support-- nativism, economic liberalism and authoritarianism? Many commentators on this year’s GOP primaries have noted that Trump generally does best among Republicans with lower incomes and less formal schooling. Trump recently reinforced this idea by stating that “I love the poorly educated.”

Our results help to explain why Trump loves “the poorly educated.” They provide support for the conclusion that Trump receives support disproportionately, though by no means exclusively, from Republicans with less schooling and lower incomes. The results for education are especially striking-- in our sample, Trump was supported by 46% of those who did not graduate from college versus only 30% of those who graduated from college. In terms of family income, he was supported by 44% of those with family incomes of less than $50,000, an identical 44% of those with family incomes of between $50,000 and $100,000 but only 30% of those with family incomes of greater than $100,000.

Our data help to explain why Trump does best among those with lower incomes and less formal schooling. The results... show that these characteristics are associated with all three predictors of Trump support: Better educated and more affluent Republicans tend to score lower on nativism, economic liberalism, and authoritarianism. Once we control for these attitudinal predispositions, there is little relationship between Trump support and either education or family income. Less educated and lower income Republicans disproportionately support Trump because they score higher on nativism, economic liberalism, and authoritarianism.

Our findings help to explain why Republican leaders have been struggling to find a way to block Trump’s nomination. They also help to explain why they have, so far, had little success in this effort. Trump is a uniquely divisive candidate within the Republican Party. He receives both intense support and intense opposition from Republican voters. As a result, his nomination would likely present a severe challenge to party unity.

Our findings indicate that Trump’s strong performance in national polls and in Republican primaries to date reflects the fact that a large proportion of Republican voters agree with his message and approve of his authoritarian style of leadership. The strongest part of that message is clearly hostility toward outgroups including Mexican immigrants and Muslims, and the large majority of Republican voters agree with Trump on these issues. Trump’s supporters are also not traditional small government, low tax conservatives. He appeals strongly to a large group of Republican voters with relatively liberal views on certain economic issue-- views that are clearly out of step with the positions of most Republican Party leaders and elected officials. For all of these reasons a Trump candidacy would almost certainly produce serious divisions among GOP leaders and voters, potentially leading to the election of a Democratic president and major Republican losses in down-ballot contests, including key U.S. Senate races.
I'm still not entirely ready to give up on my own theory that hardcore Trumpf funs are primarily life's losers with no hope and no stake in building anything for the future.

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