After all the outrage and dramatic ups and downs, how did Donald Trump build a winning coalition?
Was there a secret majority of racists hiding under the cover of America’s first Black President? No. More Americans are favourable rather than unfavourable towards every minority group we tested. It is true there are relatively high levels of negativity towards Muslims, but nowhere near the numbers who voted for Trump. In fact, not a lot more than we see in Canada.
Is this about a growing wave of authoritarianism? No. Most Americans are ambivalent about authoritarian views except for one – 61% want to see a strong leader who will destroy negative forces that have taken the US from its true path and silence the trouble makers spreading bad ideas. For what it is worth, 44% of Canadians agree with the same statement.
Those types of radical views that are associated with Trump’s candidacy and some of his more extreme supporters don’t explain the level of his success. There are just too few Americans who hold their views.
We found Trump’s vote is explained more by basic political loyalty and retrospective voting. And we saw some indications of the underlying concerns that motivate those loyalties and disenchantment.
First, while there is still strong commitment to the American dream with 67% agreeing you can be anything you want if you are willing to work for it, many Americans feel it is out of their reach. A majority (51%) believe the next generation will have fewer opportunities than I have enjoyed while 52% say no matter how hard I work, every year it seems more difficult to get by. Whatever the economic statistics say, that gap between the dream and the reality leaves many middle-class Americans feeling left out.
Second, many Americans see immigrants as a threat. Almost half (49%) believe the growing numbers of newcomers are a threat to traditional American values and customs and 50% say immigrants take jobs away from Americans.
Third, Americans are mad at Washington. Three quarters (74%) agree that governments care more about special interests and 64% say government wastes most of their money. The spotlight shifting towards new FBI investigations into new Clinton emails reminded conflicted voters that Hillary is part of a system that has profoundly alienated those voters.
It will take time to tease out the full meaning of this vote. In fact, it will take time before we even know the final outcome. We do know one thing that sheds light on the outcome: A majority of 53% of Americans agree that by saying what other politicians would never say, Donald Trump proved he will really shake things up in Washington. Tonight, we felt those tremors.
To download the full report comparing US and Canadian attitudes, click here.