Home > News > Who are the most faithful Republican voters?
156 views 4 min 0 Comment

Who are the most faithful Republican voters?

- March 31, 2016
Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gather at Youngstown Airport in Vienna, Ohio, on March 14. (Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)

Nicholas Confessore writes on the front page of the New York Times regarding Donald Trump’s recent success in Republican primaries:

But the story is also one of a party elite that abandoned its most faithful voters, blue-collar white Americans . . .

I’d like to unpack this because I don’t think it’s quite accurate. First, there are different ways to characterize which demographic groups are most firmly Republican, but if I had to pick a quick description of that party’s most faithful voters, I’d say upper-income white Southerners.

Confessore writes, “While the party was drawing more of its money from an elite group of the wealthy, it was drawing more votes from working-class and middle-income whites.” Sure, there just aren’t so many rich people out there. A higher proportion of rich people vote Republican but the party necessarily gets greater numbers of its vote from the middle of the spectrum.

Second, “blue collar.” We’ve discussed this on the Monkey Cage before: “Blue collar” is a somewhat loaded term, in that it is typically men, not women, whose jobs are categorized as blue collar, and men are more likely to vote Republican. But really it seems that “blue collar” means whatever you want it to: Confessore refers to Trump as “a blue-collar billionaire,” which busts pretty much any definition of blue collar you might find.

Third, “Americans.” Only Americans are allowed to vote in this country, so Americans are the core voters of all political groups!

[interstitial_link url=”https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-would-be-least-popular-major-party-nominee-in-modern-times/2016/03/30/b4b077e0-f5e7-11e5-9804-537defcc3cf6_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_weakcandidate-614a_1:homepage/story”]Trump would be least-popular major-party nominee in modern times[/interstitial_link]

Finally let’s put this in historical perspective. Yes, Donald Trump being taken seriously as a presidential candidate is new. But, no, it’s not new that the Republican party gets lots of votes from lower- and middle-income Americans. As I wrote when this came up before:

The Republican Party has always (or, at least, since the 1940s, which is when we started having reliable polling data) had the support of a mix of social classes. Sure, the details were different — back in the ’30s and ’40s a lot of Americans were farmers — but the Republican Party (and, for that matter, the Democratic Party) has for many decades had to balance the interests of lower-income, lower social class voters and higher-income, higher social class leaders and funders. It’s not new. It’s always interesting and always worth writing about, but I think it’s highly misleading to blur the historical context. In 1920, 1940 and 1960, Republican leaders have had to somehow get the votes of millions of non-elite voters; they have needed to convince millions of working-class and middle-class Americans that low taxes are good for them; and so on.

I respect that the New York Times and other news organizations are grappling with unexpected political developments; they should just avoid confusing the supporters of one primary-election candidate (albeit the one with the plurality of support) with the party’s voters as a whole.