Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Learning from Trump

It's often said that Donald Trump did well among less educated voters because he seemed to care about them.  As Arthur Brooks put it, "like him or hate him, learn from him. Learn from him that there should be nobody who’s left behind. And that everybody should be treated with a sense of their own dignity."  Of course, Trump didn't treat "everybody" with dignity.  But if you take Brooks seriously but not literally, maybe Trump gave a large number of voters the sense that he was concerned about them.

A number of surveys have asked if various political figures "care about people like you."  Here are the figures for presidential candidates.  When possible, they are taken from surveys shortly before the election:

                   Cares        Doesn't
Trump               46%          54%    Nov 2016 (post-election)
H. Clinton          47%          51%    Aug 2016
Trump               37%          60%    Aug 2016
H. Clinton          46%          51%    May 2016
Trump               42%          55%    May 2016
H. Clinton          47%          52%    May 2015
Obama               61%          35%    Jan 2012
Obama               57%          41%    Oct 2011
Obama               66%          33%    Oct-Nov 2008
McCain              54%          44%    Oct-Nov 2008
GW Bush             50%          46%    Oct 2004
Kerry               54%          40%    Oct 2004
Dick Cheney         40%          50%    July 2004
GW Bush             51%          41%    Oct-Nov 2000
Gore                58%          34%    Oct-Nov 2000
GHW Bush            51%          39%    May 1991
Dukakis             55%          33%    Nov 1988
GHW Bush            42%          48%    Nov 1988
GHW Bush            52%          37%    Sept 1988
Reagan              56%          37%    Oct 1984
Mondale             70%          22%    Oct 1984
Carter              55%          32%    Nov 1979
Ford                47%          35%    July 1976
Carter              48%          22%    July 1976

Trump did not do well in terms of being seen as caring about "people like you"--in fact, he did worse that anyone else on the list, despite tough competition from Dick Cheney (it's not comprehensive, so I can't say it was the worst ever).   So what we can learn from Trump is that it's possible to win even if most voters think you don't care about people like them.

There are a couple of interesting patterns,  First, Democrats consistently are more likely to be seen as caring about "people like you."  Someone (I think Butler and Stokes, Political Change in Britain) observed that in Britain, Labour was seen as more concerned about ordinary people and the Conservatives as more effective.  Second, Hillary Clinton did poorly for a Democrat.  This seems to be specific to her rather than a downward trend for Democratic candidates.  

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