Nine Charts That Help Explain Donald Trump's Win

Donald Trump with his wife Melania and members of his family on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. How did Trump become so popular and achieve the presidency?
President-elect Donald Trump and family pose at the end of the inauguration concert at the Lincoln Memorial January 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected tomorrow for Trump's inauguration as the 45th president of the United States. Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
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Which Social and Economic Trends Are Behind Trump's Popularity?

Donald Trump pictured at the Republican National Convention. Who is a Trump supporter? Find out here.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump prepares to formally accept his party's nomination on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. John Moore/Getty Images

Survey data collected throughout the 2016 presidential primary season reveal clear demographic trends among supporters of Donald Trump. They are composed of more men than women, skew older, have low levels of formal education, are at the lower ends of the economic stratum, and are predominantly white.

Several social and economic trends have changed American society greatly since the 1960s and contributed to the creation of the political base that has supports Trump.

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The Deindustrialization of America

Historical labor market data show that manufacturing jobs have declined steadily since the 1950s while service sector employment has grown tremendously. The decline of manufacturing in the U.S. has left many men out of jobs.
dshort.com

The deindustrialization of the U.S. economy is likely a contributing factor to why Trump appeals to men more than he does women, and why more men prefer Trump to Clinton.

This chart, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, shows that the manufacturing sector has experienced consistent de-growth in employment, meaning manufacturing jobs have been progressively eliminated over time. Between 2001 and 2009 the U.S. lost 42,400 factories and 5.5 million factory jobs.  

The reason for this trend is probably clear to most readers—those jobs were shipped overseas once U.S. corporations were allowed to outsource their labor. Simultaneously,  the service economy exploded in growth. But as many know painfully well, the service sector mostly offers part-time, low-wage jobs that offer limited benefits and rarely provide a living wage.

Men were hit hard by the trend in deindustrialization because manufacturing has always been and still is a field dominated by them. Though the rate of unemployment remains higher among women than men, unemployment among men has increased dramatically since the late 1960s. The number of men aged 25 to 54 -- considered prime working age -- who are unemployed has tripled since that time.  For many, this represents not just a crisis of income but of masculinity.

It's possible that these circumstances combined to make Trump's anti-free trade stance, his claims that he will bring manufacturing back to the U.S., and his brash hyper-masculinity especially appealing to men and less so to women.

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Globalization's Impact on American Incomes

Lack of income growth among the poorer classes over two decades in the U.S. helps explain Trump's appeal.
Cumulative real income growth between 1988 and 2008 at various percentiles of the global income distribution. Branko Milanovi?/VoxEU

Serbian-American economist Branko Milanovic illustrates using global income data how the lower classes among "old rich" OECD nations fared compared to others around the world in the two decades between 1988 and 2008.

Point A represents those at the median of global income distribution, point B those among the lower-middle classes in old rich nations, and point C represents the wealthiest people in the world -- the global "one percent."

What we see in this chart is that while those earning at the global median—point A—enjoyed significant income growth during this period, as did the most wealthy, those who earn at point B experienced a decline in income rather than growth. 

Milanovic explains that 7 out of 10 of these people are from old rich OECD countries, and their incomes rank among the lower half in their nations. In other words, this chart shows a steep loss of income among the American middle and working classes.

Milanovic emphasizes that these data do not show causation, but they do show a correlation between significant income growth among people who are primarily located in Asia and loss of income among lower middle classes in rich nations.

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The Shrinking Middle Class

The American middle class has shrunk in recent decades, which helps explain Trump's popularity.
Pew Research Center

In 2015 Pew Research Center released a report on the state of the American middle class. Among their key findings is the fact that the middle class has shrunk by nearly 20 percent since 1971. This has happened due to two simultaneous trends: the growth of the population of adults earning at the highest income tier, which has more than doubled in proportion since 1971, and the expansion of the lower class, which increased its share of the population by a quarter.

This chart shows us, specific to the U.S., what Milanovic's chart from the previous slide shows us about global changes in income: the lower middle classes in the U.S. have lost income in recent decades.

It's no wonder many Americans have grown tired of Congressional promises for well-paid jobs that never appear, and in turn flocked to Trump, who positioned himself as the renegade outsider who will "make America great again."

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The Decrease in Value of a High School Degree

Millennials get less economic value out of two-year degrees and high school diplomas than did previous generations, which helps explain why Trump is popular among the least educated Americans.
Median annual earnings of young adults by level of education, over time. Pew Research Center

No doubt connected to the trends in class membership illustrated on the previous slide, data from Pew Research Center dating back to 1965 show a rising disparity between the yearly earnings of young adults with a college degree and those without.

While annual earnings of those with a Bachelor's degree or more has increased since 1965,  earnings have fallen for those with lower levels of formal education. So, not only do young adults without a college degree earn less than those of previous generations, but the difference in lifestyle between them and those with a college degree has increased. They are less likely to live in the same neighborhoods due to income disparity, and because of differences in lifestyle and the everyday economic and social contexts of their lives, likely to differ on political issues and choice of candidate.

Further, a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The New York Times found that the vast majority—85 percent—of unemployed prime working age men do not have a college degree. So, not only does the lack of a college degree hurt one's income in today's world, it also limits one's chances of finding employment at all.

These data help explain why Trump's popularity is highest among those whose formal education ended before a college degree.

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Evangelicals Love Trump and Small Government

Evangelical Christians have the strongest belief in God among mainstream religious groups, and they also have the strongest belief that government should be smaller and offer fewer services. This is one of the reasons that they overwhelmingly support Donald Trump.
Pew Research Center

Interestingly enough, given his consistently immoral behavior and statements, Donald Trump is the leading choice for President among the largest religious group in the U.S.—Evangelical Christians. Among them, more than three-quarters support Trump, an increase of five percentage points over those who supported Mitt Romney in 2012.

Why do Evangelicals prefer the Republican candidate in a presidential election? Pew Research Center's Religious Landscape Study sheds some light. As this chart shows, among mainstream religious groups, Evangelicals are most likely to believe that government should be smaller and provide fewer public services.

The study also found that Evangelicals have the strongest belief in God, with the highest proportion—88 percent—expressing absolute certainty in God's existence.

These findings suggest a correlation, and perhaps even a causal relationship, between belief in God and a preference for smaller government. Perhaps with certainty in the existence of God, who is typically thought to provide for ​one's needs in a Christian context, a government that also provides is considered unnecessary.

It would make sense, then, that Evangelicals flocked to Trump, who is perhaps the most anti-government political candidate who has ever competed for the presidency.

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Trump Supporters Prefer the Past

The majority of Trump supporters believe that life for people like them was better 50 years ago than it is today. This syncs with the fact that most Trump supporters are older white men.
Pew Research Center

Looking at age, Trump's popularity is highest among those who are older. He took an early lead over Clinton among those who are 65 and older and loses to her by a growing margin as age of voter decreases. Trump garnered support from just 30 percent of those below the age of 30. 

Why might this be? A Pew survey conducted in August 2016 found that most Trump supporters believe that life for people like them is worse than it was 50 years ago. Conversely, fewer than 1-in-5 Clinton supporters feel this way. In fact, the majority of them believe that life is better today for people like them than it was in the past.

There's no doubt a correlation between this finding and the fact that Trump supporters trend older, and that they are overwhelmingly white. This syncs with survey results that show that these same voters dislike racial diversity and incoming immigrants—only 40 percent of Trump supporters approve of the nation's increasing diversity, as opposed to 72 percent of Clinton supporters.

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Whites Are Older on Average Than Other Racial Groups

The most common age for whites in the U.S. is 55 years, which helps explain why the population of people supporting Trump trends older.
Pew Research Center

Pew Research Center used 2015 Census data to make this graph, which shows that the most common age among white people is 55, illustrating that the Baby Boomer generation is the largest one among whites. It's worth noting that the Silent Generation, those born from the mid-1920s through early 1940s, is also largest among white people.

This means that white people on average are older than those from other racial groups, presenting even more evidence that there's an intersection of age and race at play in Trump's popularity.

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The Most Outwardly Racist

A poll of voters found that Trump supporters are far more racist than are voters who support other candidates.
Racial attitudes of presidential candidates' supporters. Reuters

While racism is a systemic problem in the U.S. and supporters of all candidates express racist views, Trump supporters are far more likely to hold these views than are those who supported other candidates through the 2016 primary cycle.

Poll data gathered by Reuters/Ipsos in March and April 2016 found that Trump supporters—signaled by the red line in each graph—were significantly more likely to hold openly racist views than supporters of Clinton, Cruz, and Kasich.

These data are also reflected in the wave of racial and anti-immigrant hate crimes that swept the nation following the election.

Now, a savvy reader might surmise—given the overlap between low education levels and racism among Trump supporters—that people with lower levels of intelligence are more racist than those with higher levels. But making that logical leap would be a mistake because sociological research shows that people are racist regardless of education, but those with higher intelligence scores express it in covert rather than overt ways.

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The Connection Between Poverty and Racial Hate

There's a correlation between poverty and presence of hate groups, which helps to explain why Donald Trump's racism appeals to so many poor whites.
Poverty rate vs. number of active Ku Klux Klan chapters, by state. WAOP.ST/WONKBLOG

This chart, made by the Washington Post using data from Southern Poverty Law Center and the U.S. Census, shows that there is a strong positive correlation between poverty levels and hate, as measured by the number of active Ku Klux Klan chapters within a given state. For the most part, absent some outliers, as the percent of state population living at or below the federal poverty line increases, so too does the concentration of KKK chapters within that state.

Meanwhile, research by economists has shown that though the presence of hate groups does not have an effect on rates of hate crimes, poverty and unemployment do.

A 2013 report to the UN General Assembly notes that "poverty is closely associated with racism and contributes to the persistence of racist attitudes and practices which in turn generate more poverty."

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Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. "Nine Charts That Help Explain Donald Trump's Win." ThoughtCo, Mar. 27, 2017, thoughtco.com/charts-that-explain-donald-trumps-popularity-4077189. Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. (2017, March 27). Nine Charts That Help Explain Donald Trump's Win. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/charts-that-explain-donald-trumps-popularity-4077189 Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. "Nine Charts That Help Explain Donald Trump's Win." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/charts-that-explain-donald-trumps-popularity-4077189 (accessed November 19, 2017).