Research News

Trump not elected by the working class, researchers say

Noam Lupu (Vanderbilt University)
Noam Lupu (Vanderbilt University)

White working-class Americans are not responsible for the election of President Trump, said a Vanderbilt researcher.

“We found that basically a third of his supporters come from the bottom half of the income distribution,” said Noam Lupu, associate professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. “It’s roughly the same as what (Mitt) Romney got in 2012. The Republican voter in this (2016) election was the typical Republican.”

Lupu and Nicolas Carnes, assistant professor at Duke University, used data from the American National Election Studies at the University of Michigan, which has conducted polls for every election since 1956. They also consulted data from NBC SurveyMonkey polls overseen by Josh Clinton, who holds the Abby and Jon Winkelried Chair at Vanderbilt.

Education was also tried as a class marker by Lupu and Carnes for their project.

“There is a relationship between education and support for Trump in the general election,” Lupu said. “People without a college degree or fewer years of education were more likely to vote for Trump. But that’s true across all income groups.”

That’s possible because many people who lack education have good incomes, Lupu said.

“There are people who don’t have college degrees, but maybe went into a family business or own a small business,” he said.

The results should hearten Democrats, Lupu said.

“One takeaway from the findings is that things are not as bad for the Democratic Party as they may seem,” he said. “And there shouldn’t be an assumption by Republican strategists that they have somehow locked in a constituency that they didn’t have before.”

Lupu and Carnes are working on a broader study to understand why so few working-class politicians are elected to office.

“Most of the representatives we elect are much more affluent than we are,” Lupu said.