A recent poll conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News asked Republicans which they thought was a more pressing issue facing the U.S.: "black and Hispanics losing out because of preference for whites" or "whites losing out because of preference for blacks and Hispanics?"
The results were telling: 54% of Trump voters said that whites losing out due to preferences for blacks and Hispanics was a bigger problem than blacks and Hispanics losing out, compared to 37% of Cruz voters, and 35% of Rubio and Kasich voters who felt similarly.
This notion, that white people are experiencing loss because of the progress being made for and by people of color, didn't come out of nowhere. A 2014 poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 52% of white participants felt as if "discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities." And other studies asking the same question have all turned up similar answers from white people explaining how they feel uniquely discriminated against now more than ever because of minorities, or have lost economic privileges because of minority encroachment.
It's true that, for certain groups of white Americans, things have been getting objectively worse. Last year, a study by two Princeton researchers found that death rates for middle-aged white Americans with no more than a high school education were rising, due in part to a prevalence of alcohol and opiate addiction, and an increase in suicides. At the same time, death rates for middle-aged black and Hispanic Americans were declining.
Donald Trump isn't talking about opiate addiction or suicide, of course. Instead, he's been blaming American decline on political correctness and immigrants, and falsely warning his supporters about killer, rapist Mexicans coming to take their jobs since the very beginning of his campaign. But it's likely that Trump's largely white, largely male base sees him as understanding and speaking to their personal struggles—even if they misunderstand what's causing said struggles.
Trump doesn't need to explain how he can fix things for middle-aged white people, he just needs to promise that he can, and let his followers decide who they want to blame for it all.