Sociologists Unravel The Mystery Of President Trump’s Supporters Who Continue To Back Him

Anyone who’s a ‘Never Trumper’ from the left to the right have been pondering the question, who are those peoples who continue to back the republican President Donald Trump despite his bullying, abusive character flaws, just for starters. The Washington Post has numbered his lies as exceeding 9,000 whoppers since he became president in November 2016.

At the start, I had excused away President Trump’s supporters allegiance to him based on my personal theory that many of them were suffering from economic anxiety especially in rural areas where good paying manufacturing/ plant jobs were more scarce. But over time, I did note that there had to be other reasons to explain those who continued to back President Trump, as many of his policies were counter to their economic well being.

Finally, over time I arrived at the following conclusion:

I’ve accepted the fact that the president’s base of voters stick to him like glue because they’ve nowhere else to go.

Someone who’s a White Evangelist who’s anti-abortion; anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-climate science will never vote for a Democrat.

Someone who’s an anti-immigration hardliner will not vote for a democrat.

Someone who’s a staunch 2nd amendment zealot who’s against any gun control measures will not vote for a democrat.

Someone who’s a White nationalist, neo-Nazis, a racist and an Antisemitic will not vote for a Democrat.

Someone who only wanted his/ her tax cuts plus the elimination of business regulations and who doesn’t care about anything else will not vote for a democrat. Those dark money GOP donors are going nowhere near the Democratic Party

Someone who’s involved in the fossil fuel industry or who does not believe that climate change is for real will probably not vote for a democrat.

It’s my opinion that the above voters are what the Republican Party leaders consider to be their coalition /bloc of voters. GOP lawmakers cannot cross these folks with even the perception that they are attacking/ standing up to President Trump, as these supporters will start a twitter war against the recalcitrant republican legislator; FOX News/ right wing media pundits will pile on; and the big GOP ‘dark money’ donors will cut off funds for those who don’t tow the line.

As a consequence, most of these GOP lawmakers are choosing their job security over doing what’s right.

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Two sociologists have developed the profile of the type of individual who continues to back President Trump which could end up being invaluable intel for those Democratic Party presidential candidates who intend to challenge him in the 2020 elections.

In a recent issue of the Journal Critical Sociology research publication, these 2 sociologists have figured out that President Trump’s supporters voted for him mainly because they share his prejudices, not because they’re financially stressed.

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Here’s the rest of the story…

On March 11, 2019, Chauncey Devega of Salon helped pen this AlterNet publication, “Sociologists destroy the myth that uneducated white voters support Trump because of ‘economic anxiety’


“Writing in “The Anger Games: Who Voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 Election, and Why?”, which appeared in a recent issue of the journal Critical Sociology, Smith and Hanley summarize their new research:”

“We find that Trump’s supporters voted for him mainly because they share his prejudices, not because they’re financially stressed. It’s true, as exit polls showed, that voters without four-year college degrees were likelier than average to support Trump. But millions of these voters — who are often stereotyped as “the white working class” — opposed Trump because they oppose his prejudices. These prejudices, meanwhile, have a definite structure, which we argue should be called authoritarian: negatively, they target minorities and women; and positively, they favor domineering and intolerant leaders who are uninhibited about their biases.”

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“Furthermore, the authors report, what unified Trump’s voters wasn’t “economic anxiety” but prejudice and intolerance. What they define as authoritarian views were “strongly associated with support for Donald Trump.” Political polarization, although it definitely exists, is not strictly a “class phenomenon,” in their view. Trump voters came “from many strata and milieus” and “the effects of class are mediated … through biases and other attitudes.”

“They continue:”

“Trump’s white base is more readily found among voters who want domineering and intolerant leaders than among voters of any particular class background. Whether rich or poor, young or old, male or female, college or non-college educated, white voters supported Trump in 2016 when they shared his prejudices, and very seldom otherwise. … The decisive reason that white, male, older and less educated voters were disproportionately pro-Trump is that they shared his prejudices and wanted domineering, aggressive leaders more often than other voters did.”

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“Smith and Hanley identified eight attitudes that interacted with each other and strongly predicted support for Trump: identifying as conservative; support for a “domineering” leader; Christian fundamentalism, prejudice against immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims and women; and “pessimism about the economy.” then demonstrate how racism and sexism reinforce each other: “(We can throw Antisemitism into this mix.)

“Overall, what we see is that a spectrum of attitudes inspired pro-Trump voting, and that many of these attitudes are particularly common among older, less educated, and male voters. Central among these attitudes is the wish for domineering presidential action against line-cutters and rotten apples.”

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“Smith and Hanley conclude with a warning for liberals and others who believe that Trump’s supporters are likely to abandon him, disillusioned by his failed promises to improve their lives:”

“Most Trump voters cast their ballots for him with their eyes open, not despite his prejudices but because of them. Their partisanship, whether positive (toward Trump and the Republicans) or negative (against Clinton and the Democrats), is intense.”

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“This partisanship is anchored in anger and resentment among mild as well as strong Trump voters. Anger, not fear, was the emotional key to the Tea Party, and that seems to be true for Trumpism as well. If so, the challenge for progressives is greater than many people have imagined. Hostility to minorities and women cannot be wished away; nor can the wish for domineering leaders. The anger games are far from over.”

“I recently spoke with David Smith about this new research, Trump’s enduring support, authoritarianism and the role of “hostile sexism” in the controversy surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.”

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Given your research and other scholarship and intuitions, how do you explain how Donald Trump was able to win the 2016 presidential election?

“Hostility to immigrants and the wish for an intolerant leader grew sharply among right-leaning white voters after 2012. Those feelings merged in 2016 with a raft of resentments – towards minorities, women, Muslims and liberals – and the result was Donald Trump’s presidency.”

“Trump himself, like every alert demagogue, picks up signals from his audience and then tells them what they want to hear. He was the first candidate to beat the anti-immigrant drums, and when that worked for him, he courted voters who had previously backed the other Republican candidates. That worked too – mainly because, as it turned out, those voters also wanted a domineering and intolerant leader.”

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“One of the dominant narratives was that the 2016 election was a story about “economic anxiety.” Given that more and more empirical, statistical and experimental work shows that to be incorrect, why does that narrative linger?”

“That’s a critical point. A great deal of research, including ours, shows that personal financial worries did not distinguish Trump voters from others. All voters, across the spectrum, expressed similar pocketbook anxieties, so anxiety isn’t what defined Trump voters in particular.”

“It’s also relevant to note that Trump’s base was more insulated from global competition than the rest of the electorate, despite what people often guess about this. So your question is fundamental: Why does the anxiety myth linger, despite evidence to the contrary?”

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“One key reason, I think, is that many liberals are reluctant to believe that large numbers of people are as mean-spirited as their words and actions might suggest. They want to think that fear, not vindictiveness, drives support for vindictive rhetoric and policy. That’s generous, but I think it’s also a special kind of blindness.”
“In fact, we seem to have two opposite forms of emotional blindness. Many liberals can’t believe that large numbers of people are vindictive while many conservatives scoff at the idea that liberals are not vindictive. Liberals often make excuses for people who show signs of intolerance. Right-wingers, in contrast, often laugh at claims to “feel your pain.”
“These attitudes shouldn’t be ignored. Right-wingers who hate liberals are problematic, and liberals whose reflex is to forgive them are problematic, too.”
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“Bullies have to be resisted; they can’t be appeased. So we need to know how to recognize them, and the election gives us a few hints. It turns out that, though some Trump voters disliked his harsh rhetoric – particularly those who had preferred [Ohio Gov. John] Kasich in the primaries – the large majority of those voters still pulled the level for him, and most of them supported him after the election as well.”
“In “The Anger Games,” Eric Hanley and I analyzed 17 variables from the 2016 American National Election Study. We found that 73.1 percent of Trump voters called themselves his “strong” supporters. You might think that Trump voters who didn’t identify as strong supporters would be more relaxed, more tolerant. But actually they were just a little less biased than his ardent supporters, and they were nearly as eager to have a domineering leader.”
“The bottom line is that bullying rhetoric won tens of millions of white votes in 2016. That, not financial worry, is the reality we face. We can’t explain away the fact that, after nearly two years of insults and abuses – children in cages, excuses for white supremacists, the Muslim travel ban and so much more – nearly 90 percent of Republicans support Donald Trump.”
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“What about the related narrative of the “white working class”? That seems to have just as much traction as the economic anxiety narrative.”

“I see that as another aspect of what I was describing above, which I call “liberal denial.” Liberals in denial know that bullying happens. They see jeering and bad behavior, but they interpret it as a sign of immaturity, not meanness. They think that people misbehave mainly when they’re afraid or confused; that they lash out when they’re misinformed about the real cause of their troubles. So the liberal solution is education. Give people who talk like angry bigots the facts, they think – show them that their fears and hostilities are misplaced – and they’ll change their ways.”

“In my opinion that’s very rarely true. But the liberal belief in the redeeming power of facts is powerful – and that connects directly to the narrative of the “white working class.” What journalists and academics generally mean by that phrase is very simply “white Americans without college degrees.” The fact that a substantial percentage of white people without BAs aren’t wage earners (millions of them own small businesses, are self-employed, retired, disabled, etc.) doesn’t diminish the popularity of that phrase. What matters most, in liberal discourse, is education.”

“For educated liberals, it’s reassuring to think that white voters who pulled the lever for Donald Trump were simply making a mistake, and that they would have done better if they had better understood their own interests. The implication is that, if liberals do their job properly, the less educated will be better educated in the future. Once they learn a few basic lessons, they’ll make better decisions.”

“This paternalism – I can’t see another good word for it – irritates Trump’s troops and aggravates their hatred for “cultural elites” and “political correctness.” Trump himself, meanwhile, has reasons of his own to brand his base as “working class.” He’s praising his white loyalists as makers, not takers; workers, not shirkers; and just below the surface of that praise we can easily detect many lurking stereotypes.”

“In other words, the main dividing line isn’t education or age or marriage, but prejudice. Millions of people in every category who shared Trump’s biases voted for him; and yet, at the same time, millions of other white voters, in every category – less educated, more educated; male, female; younger, older – voted against him because they disagreed with him.”

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“The indifference many Republicans have shown towards Trump’s admitted sexual assaults and towards the many women who say he sexually abused or harassed them resonates in this context. That seems especially pertinent now that his nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, has been accused of attempted rape, and has been defended by many Republicans even before they’ve heard from his accuser. Does that sound like hostile sexism?”

“Absolutely. It’s a chemically pure example, straight from the textbooks. Senate Republicans seem to be rushing to injustice, eager to assume that charges of discrimination – and much, much worse – are either obviously wrong or trivial. Ordinary considerations of due process are being given short shrift, so determined are [Sen. Chuck] Grassley and others to get their man into a position of authority. That would be worrisome at any time, but it’s especially alarming given Kavanaugh’s historically negative views concerning women’s right to choose.”

“The word “hostile” isn’t in any way overblown in this context. The items that Eric and I contributed to the election study — about crushing evil and getting rid of rotten apples — originated in a scale which, in the past, has often been used in conjunction with scales probing attitudes towards women. Suffice to say that those items are regularly strongly associated with scales measuring hostility toward women, “rape myth” acceptance, acceptance of interpersonal violence, adversarial sexual beliefs and more.”

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“Another narrative, and one that frustrates me greatly, is that Trump is “losing supporters” or will inevitably become “less popular.” Trump represents a deep cultural problem of racism, sexism, nativism and authoritarianism. He is a symptom, not the cause, of the disease. There may be some fluctuation, but once the 2020 presidential election approaches Trump’s support will harden. Do you see any grounds for hopefulness?”

“I share your frustrations, which I’ve felt ever since I began studying intolerance long ago. At times, it has felt as if the denial of authoritarian hatred was epidemic and invincible. But lately, due to the extremity of the times, many people are beginning to see past that denial. The wish, the instinct, to reduce hatred to anxiety is strong – but it no longer feels invincible. So I’m beginning to see the glass as half full. Arguments like yours and mine now have an interested and growing audience, and many serious people are carrying out good research focusing on the role of hatred in this political moment. That wasn’t always the case. So I’m beginning to feel hopeful – not, of course, about Trumpism, but about the response and resistance that Trumpism is spurring.”

Link to entire report:

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  1. Gronda, good post. As a former GOPer, I read that more than 1/2 of GOP voters are voting against their economic interests and have no idea they are.
    Then along comes Trump as their savior. To his credit, he went to see these disenfranchised and told them whom to blame and whom to fear. Yet, he continued the GOP model:
    – tax cut for the wealthy
    – try to gut the ACA which hurts these voters
    – add tariffs to hurt farmers and consumers
    – cut regs to harm the environment
    – cut job retraining programs for coal workers
    And, so on. He is sold folks a bill of goods. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dear Keith,

      I’ve no doubt that those GOP folks who voted for President Trump for economic reasons will end up not voting for him again. It is a shock to me as to how many of his followers suffer from being sexist and racist, while being anti-climate change science, anti-immigration hardliners; anti-Muslim; anti-Semitic; anti-LGBTQ rights; anti any reasonable gun control measures. Its the rich ‘dark money’ donors who have benefited from the Trump administration policies.. These angry peoples comprise the GOP coalition of voters.

      The president and GOP members could care less about the needs of the middle class and poor folks and this disdain is reflected in their budgeting and policies.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Disturbing … very disturbing. The “Trump Triumphant” cartoon especially sent chills down my spine, for I have envisioned that scene in my nightmares too many times. So, if the root of it all, the foundation of Trump’s support, is prejudice and bigotry … what is the solution? The democrats certainly aren’t going to stoop to that moral low ground. As I see it, the only real hope is the fact that the bigots do not constitute a majority in this nation … at least I hope they do not. Sigh. Good post, Gronda, albeit the stuff that nightmares are made of.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dear Jill,

      This was important intel that Democratic candidates needed to be armed with as they compete in the marketplace of ideas.

      Knowing ahead of time that catering to the president’s base is not a wise way to manage their time, is a plus. They’ll have to face the reality that they need to focus on adding voters, getting voters registered, fighting restrictions on voting rights, getting voters excited about a better deal for Americans across the board. The best cure against believers of Trumpism is to trounce them on Nov. 8, 2019.

      The next cure is actually delivering for middle class/ poor on a number of fronts like pragmatic version of GND, increasing hourly min. wage rate for anyone over 18 yrs. of age; improving ACA; encouraging expanding Medicaid expansion; passing sensible gun control measures. Democrats need to own capitalist/ socialist agenda. USA has been a combination country of capitalism/ socialism for years. The only question should be about how to balance the two. The GOP want to kill ACA; preexisting coverage mandate; any increase in minimum wage rates. They are pushing to cut socialistic programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. while they grant huge tax cuts benefits for the rich while driving up the deficit. This is their definition of capitalism.

      I’m betting most Americans will not approve of the GOP’s version of capitalism.

      As always, thanks a million for all of your support and for this reblog.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 1 person

      • I definitely think you are right that re-districting gerrymandered states, working to get rid of restrictive voter ID laws, and stirring enthusiasm are the keys. We must not allow Trump an additional 4 years, whatever it takes!


        Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    It could be that this report that Gronda has written about is the answer to the question that has been keeping us awake at night: What does it take to shake Trump supporters awake? The report is disturbing if it is correct, but well worth the read and worth pondering, for it does answer a number of questions. Thank you, Gronda, for bringing us this information and allowing me to share.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Dear god that’s scary. As I read it, I saw my own attitudes laid out in front of me. Believing that people are just naturally ‘mean spirited’ …and will never change, is something I don’t want to believe, especially at the scale shown in the US.

    More scary still is the question of whether this hatred is what is driving Brexit and all the other right wing movements in other countries, including Australia.

    In gaming, there are those who will do anything to win. Their polar opposites are called ‘Care Bears’, and the name denotes weakness. I’ve always been a Care Bear. I think it’s time the Care Bears fought back instead of turning the other cheek.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dear ACFLORY,

      You nailed the point of this blog. By nature Democrats want to give folks the benefit of the doubt, they don’t want to believe the worst about others.

      By facing the reality that the Trumpian GOP base of voters are comprised to voters who are not likely to see the light, Democratic candidates need to focus on what will work with most voters like exciting a base where they are motivated to get out and vote and to volunteer, donate monies. At the same time, a real effort has to be made to register more voters, make sure voting machines are secure; be ready to fight against voting rights restrictions, etc.

      The voters who voted for President Trump in 2016 but who had previously voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012 in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are the ones that Democrats can win back.

      The cure against the purveyors of Trumpism is to trounce them at the ballot box in huge numbers.

      Yes, the Care Bears have to learn how to fight back.

      Hugs, Gronda


  5. I’m with the care bear, self-proclaimed right above me. We need to recognize that the supporters will not change. they will fight change every single step of the way. SO, we need to change the way we think about them and plan accordingly.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Dear Suze,

      We all want to believe better of our fellow human beings. Sometimes peoples get stuck in their prejudices and anger to where they are slaves to their fears. They can’t be counted on to move this country forward for the better which means that the Care Bears have to move forward this country despite them. The Democratic candidates will have to overcome Trumpian negativity with the “Care Bears’ of this world as they deliver a better, positive message that they can deliver on to lift everyone up.

      Frankly, we have to trounce Trumpian believers at the ballot box to where they get the message loud and clear, this country is moving forward with or without them.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Hello Gronda. I have long said that anger and bigotry were the staples of the tRump supports. I have often said that those that stayed in the cult party of Trump formerly known as the republican party were doing so because he was granting them the right to discriminate and force their will on those they disagreed with. The upsurge in violence towards minorities and women since his ascendance to power has been clear proof of his followers intent. The fact that they can so easily give up what they claimed before to hold dear, which was only used as a means to hold back progress of civil equality, to support tRump again shows that anger towards others not like them was what fueled them. I do not believe in trying to reach people like that. I wont waste my time trying to convert them. I want to force them back under the rocks they were under before and to move the country forward despite them. This is a great post with lots of very useful information. Thanks. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Scottie,

      You are right. These peoples who are stuck in their anger and prejudices which is fueled by FOX TV and other right wing pundits with President Trump in charge of the bully pulpit are going nowhere. It’s no wonder they stick by President Trump, no matter what he does.

      We have to face this reality by countering their message with a better choice that gives the average American hope for a better future. Success means that we bury all Trumpian believers at the ballot box where they are forced to follow leaders who are competent, decent, and who are truly moving this country towards a better future for all Americans or they can be the ones, left behind.

      Thanks a million for helping to get this message out to as many peoples as possible via your reblog.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Suzanne,

      It’s a reality that Democratic candidates have to be aware of as they start to campaign to garner support for their ideas and plans for the future. Those who are stuck in a muck of anger, fear, prejudices fueled by right wing media outlets like FOX TV and led by an authoritarian type, President Trump with the power of the bully pulpit, are not going to be moved by facts, reason, evidence, truth, decency, fairness, etc.

      We have to move on without them. Thanks a million for all of your support and for this reblog.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 1 person

  7. FollowingWWII, social psychologists created the the F-A scale to explore the fascist authoritarian personality. Nothing new about fascism. It’s still a shocker. And yes, it can happen here.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. As I travel through Alabama and Mississippi towns on our road trip, I detect that life has not changed much and that’s the way they want it. As the saying goes, “ you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear USFMAN,

      That’s why these two states have been consistently rated on the bottom 5 on quality of life regarding education, access to medical care, infrastructure, etc. I guess its citizens prefer to remain behind other states in just about all ratings, rather than change.

      Hugs, Gronda


  9. I don’t pretend to know the whole picture. Some people really look forward to cruelty. So, there’s that. Here are some other things that play for *some* people – religious cult, chief entertainment officer, and “stick with the team so we can keep winning”

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Gronda…I had saved this post of yours and just digested it well today. It is so well thought out and researched and scary!
    Also Petersironwood has some excellent posts as well…
    Thanks for all you do…


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