Here’s the Lowdown on Who Supports Donald Trump

It’s unclear if Trump supporters will remain loyal once he is eventually forced to propose his actual policy prescriptions.
August 5, 2015 • Commentary
This article appeared in The Federalist on August 5, 2015.

Donald Trump continues to make waves as his poll numbers surge to the top of the GOP pack. Both the latest CNN/ORC and Public Policy Polling (PPP) polls find Trump leading with 19 percent of Republican voters. An ABC/Washington Post poll that includes “leaners” finds Trump with as high as 23 percent of the GOP vote. Furthermore, Trump’s surging favorability ratings from 38 percent in June to 53 percent in July among Republicans has fully caught the media’s attention.

Who are these Trump supporters? Which Republican voters have so quickly coalesced around his candidacy? Have his controversial comments suggesting most unauthorized immigrants from Mexico are criminals, drug dealers, and rapists alienated Hispanic voters? Has his aggressive rhetorical style appealed more to men or women?

Polling data reveal that Trump supporters are more likely to be male, white, older, with less education—but they are not more likely to be right‐​wing.

Donald Trump’s Male Advantage

Multiple polls show Trump does better among men than women. For instance, a Fox News poll finds that among likely Republican primary voters, 23 percent of men want Trump as the GOP nominee compared to 13 percent of women. CNN/ORC finds nearly identical numbers.

Among all Americans, CNN/ORC finds men (39 percent) are 12 points more likely than women (27 percent) to have a favorable view of Trump overall (YouGov and PPP find a similar gender gap). Trump’s GOP competitors have a narrower gender gap, of 5 to 7 points.

CNNFox, and ABC/WashPo polls reveal that Americans with more education are less likely to support Trump’s presidential candidacy. Most strikingly, the ABC/WashPopoll finds only 8 percent of college‐​degree‐​holding Republican voters plan to vote for Trump, compared to 32 percent of Republican voters without college degrees. Moreover, those with college degrees (56 percent) are about 6 points more likely to believe that Trump is wrong about immigration compared to those without college degrees (50 percent), the Fox poll finds.

Despite Trump’s own personal wealth, and frequent discussion of it, polls don’t uncover consistent differences between modest‐​income and high‐​income households in Trump favorability ratings.

Hispanics Hate Donald Trump

Predictably, Hispanics have soured on Trump, and white Americans remain more supportive of him than non‐​white Americans. An ABC/WashPo poll finds that Trump’s unfavorability ratings among Latinos have soared from 60 percent to 81 percent since May. YouGov and CNN/ORC find similar results. Furthermore, white Americans (38 percent) are almost twice as supportive of Trump as Hispanics (20 percent). African‐​Americans (25 percent) are also considerably cooler to Trump, according to YouGov.

The Washington Post’s Peyton Craighill and Scott Clement point out that, while Trump’s favorability ratings among Hispanics are negative 68 points, Jeb Bush’s favorability ratings are positive by 15 points. This suggests that partisanship alone cannot explain Latinos’ antagonism towards Trump. Instead, the developer’s controversial comments on immigration are more likely behind the surge in Hispanics’ negative opinions of Trump.

Trump divides age cohorts. For instance, both YouGov and CNN/ORC polls find American seniors are about twice as likely to have a favorable view of Donald Trump (about 4 in 10) as millennials (2 in 10). In fact, YouGov finds that fully 51 percent of millennials are “very” unfavorable toward Trump, compared to 38 percent of seniors.

Trump Is No Tea Party Favorite

Tea Party voters prefer Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (24 percent) to Trump (14 percent). In contrast, Republicans overall favor Trump first (19 percent) followed by Walker (17 percent), according to a PPP poll. Furthermore, Trump does about as well among moderate Republicans as he does among very conservative Republicans (see ABC/WashPo and PPP polls.) If the right wing were bolstering Trump’s candidacy, then we’d expect him to garner greater support among the “very conservative” ranks.

Despite the hype over Trump’s recent polling surge, he still has not consistently exceeded much beyond 20 percent in recent polls of Republican voters. Furthermore, a majority (54 percent) of Republicans say Trump does not represent the “core values of the Republican Party,” according to ABC/WashPo. Republicans tend to either love or hate Trump, a recipe that could make it difficult for him to secure the GOP nomination for president.

Trump is a polarizing candidate with some of the highest unfavorability ratings among the many Republican hopefuls. Polls consistently find about 4 in 10 Republicans are unfavorable toward him, about two to three times higher than most other Republican candidates (see MonmouthYouGovCNN/ORC, and PPP polls). Similarly, a Monmouth poll reports that 39 percent of Republican voters think publicity is Trump’s true motive in the race.

The Future for Donald Trump

While Trump has aired many grievances, he has offered few concrete policy solutions thus far. It’s unclear if Trump supporters will remain loyal once he is eventually forced to propose his actual policy prescriptions.

In the past, he’s proposed policies that are perhaps better aligned with Democratic constituencies than Republicans. For instance in his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve,” Trump made a case for government‐​run health care, in 1999 he proposed a 14.25 percent wealth tax on Americans with $10 million or more, and he was pro‐​choice. Trump says he has since evolved on these issues, and now takes more traditional Republican stances. As Republican voters find out about his evolution, will they label him a flip flopper and dismiss him as inauthentic?

Trump may continue to ascend; however, he may also go the way of Sarah Palin unless he can convince Republicans he has serious, and palatable, policy proposals. Palin deeply connected with a great deal of voters, particularly tea party voters. However, once it became clear that she would not win a general election for president, even her most ardent defenders withdrew their support.

While the political punditry may have their minds made up that Trump could never win a general election, some Americans are holding out a little longer to see what Trump might come up with. Whether he wins or loses, he will certainly make the 2016 election all the more entertaining.

About the Author
Emily Ekins

Vice President and Director of Polling, Cato Institute