NPR published an interview Monday morning with President Obama, wherein Steve Inskeep delicately asked about the “anxieties” that some American voters have about him. That led to an interesting discussion about support for leading candidate Donald Trump, a bowl of chili overturned into a gas station toilet.
Near the end of the forty-minute interview, Obama referred to “certain strains” of the Republican party, i.e. the ones “that suggest that somehow I’m different, I’m Muslim, I’m disloyal to the country, etc.” And Trump, the president said, is deftly exploiting them and their specific fears about a changing country, and about their economic place within it:
“I do think that when you combine that demographic change with all the economic stresses that people have been going through — because of the financial crisis, because of technology, because of globalization, the fact that wages and incomes have been flat-lining for some time, and that particularly blue-collar men have had a lot of trouble in this new economy, where they are no longer getting the same bargain that they got when they were going to a factory and able to support their families on a single paycheck — you combine those things, and it means that there is going to be potential anger, frustration, fear.
“Some of it justified, but just misdirected. I think somebody like Mr. Trump is taking advantage of that. That’s what he’s exploiting during the course of his campaign.”
Obama is at his most awkward talking about those “blue-collar men.” When he was campaigning in 2008, he pissed off a broad swath of the middle of the country when, referring to people in economically depressed small towns, he said: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
But that remark has pretty neatly predicted support for both the Tea Party in 2010 and Trump today: one poll found that Trump’s supporters tend to be white, less wealthy and less well-educated. But they’re not just men: Public Policy Polling found that Trump is also leading among Republican women, and with both younger voters and seniors:
Trump is the biggest gainer since our last national poll in mid-November, going from 26% to 34%. He’s also become more broadly popular with GOP voters, with his favorability rating going from 51/37 up to 58/34. Trump’s hold on the Republican electorate holds true with most segments of the party. He leads with 36% among voters most concerned with having a nominee who’s conservative on the issues, and with 34% among voters most concerned about being able to beat a Democrat in the fall. He leads among both Evangelicals with 35%, and among non-Evangelicals with 33%. He leads with both women (34%) and men (also 34%). He leads with both younger voters (38%) and seniors (32%).