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“The results show mixed evidence that economic distress has motivated Trump support,” writes author Jonathan Rothwell, a senior economist at Gallup. “His supporters are less educated and more likely to work in blue collar occupations,” but higher household incomes also tended to predict support for the candidate. That held true among both white Republicans as well as among a wider swath of the public.
But under a more expansive notion of prosperity – one that takes into account the health of one’s community – Trumpism may indeed be the cry of an ailing America, one detached from the dynamism and diversity of urban areas where older generations are more likely to watch their sons and daughters flourish. And the survey’s findings may indicate that even if Mr. Trump loses the election in November, the politics of malaise may survive him.
. . . The Gallup survey, somewhat conversely, turns out “no link whatsoever” between exposure to trade competition and support for Trump’s nationalist politics. But it was in other measures of what Mr. Rothwell calls “social well-being” – how likely a person’s children are to surpass them socioeconomically, as well as how healthy one is likely to be and how long they are likely to live – that communities thick with Trump supporters tend to lag behind.
Those communities are also more likely to be redoubts of segregated whiteness, meaning the xenophobia that has marred Trump’s campaign is likely giving voice to perceptions that are more a matter of notion than of lived experience. That finding bears out other studies showing that Trump support is strongly correlated with the presence of few immigrants in a given area.
“Constant support for Trump is highly elevated in areas with few college graduates,” writes Rothwell, “far from the Mexican border, and in neighborhoods that standout within the commuting zone for being white, segregated enclaves, with little exposure to blacks, [Asians], and Hispanics.”