Many Democrats have wondered whether economic populism might help win the support of white working class Trump voters. We saw in Part 2 that economic populism didn’t seem to play much of a role for Obama/Trump voters in the 2016 election; however, it’s still possible that in a future election, focused on different issues, that approach might work. My third analysis explores that question. Note that as per previous analyses, I restricted this sample to white voters.
I’m leaving behind multiple regression analysis, which focuses on explaining past events, and returning to simple descriptive analysis of the political opinions of Obama/Trump voters as compared to Obama/Clinton and Romney/Trump voters. As baseline, we might expect that people who voted for a Democrat in 2012 and a Republican in 2016 were more conservative than loyal Democratic voters and less conservative than loyal Republican voters. On most issues, this turns out to be true: For example, the opinions of Obama/Trump voters on Obamacare fell about halfway between the opinions of loyal Democrats and the opinions of loyal Republicans.
There was a tendency, however, for Obama/Trump voters to be somewhat closer to Democrats on economic issues and somewhat closer to Republicans on social issues. The strength of this tendency varies from issue to issue; I will discuss only the most striking findings.
- On some issues, Obama/Trump voters were much closer to Democrats than to Republicans:
- Feelings toward unions.
- Raising the minimum wage.
- Taxing millionaires.
- Regulating banks.
- Regulating business in general.
- That should not be understood to mean that Obama/Trump voters would consistently support, say, the Sanders agenda. On the issues listed above, Obama/Trump voters were slightly to the right of Obama/Clinton voters. And on most economic issues, Obama/Trump voters were well to the right of Obama/Clinton voters, even though they were not as far right as Romney/Trump voters:
- Government funding for education.
- Government involvement in health care.
- Funding for the poor.
- Paid family leave.
- The general role of government.
- There are a handful of economic issues where Obama/Trump voters fall outside the normal Democrat-Republican continuum:
- Contra their representatives, loyal Democrats like free trade more than loyal Republicans do; Obama/Trump voters like free trade even less than loyal Republicans do.
- Loyal Democrats favor substantially more spending on Social Security than loyal Republicans do; Obama/Trump voters favor substantially more spending on Social Security even than loyal Democrats do.
- The survey asks a number of questions about the traits that define a “real American”: birthplace, ancestry, language, and customs. Most respondents thought that language is the most important of these, followed by customs, birthplace, and ancestry. Loyal Democrats consistently thought each of these were less important than loyal Republicans did. Obama/Trump voters, by contrast, thought each of these things were slightly more important than loyal Republicans did.
- The majority of Obama/Trump voters said they did not vote in a party primary. Of those who did, a bare majority voted for Trump; slightly less than a quarter voted for Bernie Sanders, and smaller numbers voted for Clinton, Kasich, or “another Democrat” (there were no other Democrats on the ballot except in Iowa, so perhaps they lied or forgot who they voted for?) The number of Obama/Trump supporters who voted for Cruz, Rubio, “another Republican”, or a third-party candidate was very close to zero.