The one surprising factor that predicts whether someone will support Donald Trump

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

What does the average Trump voter look like?

The image that has most taken hold is of a white, working-class voter motivated by economic anxiety and seeking to regain financial stability.

But the reality, according to several new studies, is more complex.

Pew Research Center recently surveyed 4,385 adults (including 1,701 Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters). They asked them how they felt about a given host of issues, and then how they felt about Trump. They then came up with a matrix showing how much a response to a given question was associated with the respondent's feeling more "warmly" toward Trump.


That allowed them to produce the following chart:

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

A Republican who feels that "the growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens U.S. values" felt 18 points more warmly toward Trump than a respondent with an opposing view or different characteristic, the chart shows.

The next greatest relative motivating factor for Trump support was the belief that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence, and that a majority-minority population will be bad for the country—both at 8 points.


Equally notable was what didn't lead to warm feelings toward Trump: a respondent's race, income, or conservative leanings, as can be seen at the bottom of the graphic. This belies the white, working-class narrative Trump voter narrative, report author Jocelyn Kiley told me, as long as you're using income (as opposed to education level) to define class.

Other recent studies have confirmed these findings.

"My analysis indicates that economic status and attitudes do little to explain support for Donald Trump," Philip Klinkner, a Hamilton College political scientist who analyzed the American National Election Study, which collects electoral survey data, wrote for Vox last week. He continued, "those who express more resentment toward African Americans, those who think the word 'violent' describes Muslims well, and those who believe President Obama is a Muslim have much more positive views of Trump compared with Clinton."


Nate Silver has also debunked the "white working class" myth, finding that Trump voters’ median income exceeded the overall statewide median in 23 different states.

"Since almost all of Trump’s voters so far in the primaries have been non-Hispanic whites, we can ask whether they make lower incomes than other white Americans, for instance," he wrote last month. "The answer is 'no.' The median household income for non-Hispanic whites is about $62,000,4 still a fair bit lower than the $72,000 median for Trump voters."


Finally, earlier this year, RAND took a poll of Trump voters. They came up with a Trump motivator that Pew did not measure: a feeling of powerlessness. Here's how Yahoo summarized it:

…The strongest indicator of support for Trump — stronger than gender, age, race/ethnicity, employment status, educational attainment, household income, attitudes toward Muslims, attitudes toward illegal immigrants or attitudes toward Hispanics — was a feeling of voicelessness; according to RAND, Republicans were 86.5 percent more likely to prefer the Manhattan mogul if they “somewhat” or “strongly” agreed that “people like me don't have any say about what the government does.”


It's possible that these Trump supporters feel this way precisely because the current administration is in favor of a path to citizenship, promoting tolerance for Islam in America, and supporting policies that boost minorities.

In short, Trump's support among Republican voters isn't as simple as race or economic class. It appears to be about something much more interesting: a feeling of loss—loss of control, loss of "traditional American values"—combined with anger and fear of the ethnic and religious minorities they feel are causing that loss.


Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.

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