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Working class in the US October 20, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Thought provoking piece in the Guardian this weekend from Sarah Smarsh on the perception that the working class in the US, in particular the white components of same, are the basis of the support for Trump.

Hard numbers complicate, if not roundly dismiss, the oft-regurgitated theory that income or education levels predict Trump support, or that working-class whites support him disproportionately. Last month, results of 87,000 interviews conducted by Gallup showed that those who liked Trump were under no more economic distress or immigration-related anxiety than those who opposed him.

According to the study, his supporters didn’t have lower incomes or higher unemployment levels than other Americans. Income data misses a lot; those with healthy earnings might also have negative wealth or downward mobility. But respondents overall weren’t clinging to jobs perceived to be endangered. “Surprisingly”, a Gallup researcher wrote, “there appears to be no link whatsoever between exposure to trade competition and support for nationalist policies in America, as embodied by the Trump campaign.”


Earlier this year, primary exit polls revealed that Trump voters were, in fact, more affluent than most Americans, with a median household income of $72,000 – higher than that of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supporters. Forty-four percent of them had college degrees, well above the national average of 33% among whites or 29% overall. In January, political scientist Matthew MacWilliams reported findings that a penchant for authoritarianism – not income, education, gender, age or race –predicted Trump support.

And Smash points to the manner in which it has become convenient, perhaps even expedient, for the US media or sections of it to put forward the idea that the working class is in lockstep with Trump. And I think this point of hers is well made>

In seeking to explain Trump’s appeal, proportionate media coverage would require more stories about the racism and misogyny among white Trump supporters in tony suburbs. Or, if we’re examining economically driven bitterness among the working class, stories about the Democratic lawmakers who in recent decades ended welfare as we knew it, hopped in the sack with Wall Street and forgot American labor in their global trade agreements.


But, for national media outlets comprised largely of middle- and upper-class liberals, that would mean looking their own class in the face.

And that would be a problem. Indeed I’m struck by how similar this is to Labour in the UK at the last election. Where instantly there was an effort to portray the working class in the UK as the driver of Brexit – rather than an element of it, and perhaps a minority of same, contributing to the referendum result, whereas the LP support, traditional and otherwise overwhelmingly stayed with that party in supporting a Remain. Yet it is the minority that is fixed upon and genuflected to or blamed, rather than the quieter majority who supported Remain (and in the UK continue to support the Democrats in the main rather than Trump).

But is this, in a way, yet anther example of the working class portrayed as ‘other’? In truth the remarkable thing is not that some in the working class support Trump, but rather that the majority don’t. And that’s a lesson with resonance further afield.


1. EWI - October 20, 2016

Trump gives them at least the mirage of a way out of being ground down. Clinton’s too busy with her Wall Street base.


2. CL - October 20, 2016

“the influence of labor unions and their members in past election cycles has been demonstrable, worth about two to three points nationally in 2012, according to some analyses.”

“An internal AFL poll conducted before Labor Day challenged Trump’s boast that rank-and-file union workers strongly backed him for president, despite a long list of endorsements from union leaders for Clinton. The AFL’s survey, which focused on union households in Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, showed Trump with about 36 percent of union-member support at summer’s end. Public polls reported similar results.”


3. CL - October 20, 2016

Some similar figures at 538, but:

“Substantial majorities of Republicans in every state so far have said they’re “very worried” about the condition of the U.S. economy, according to exit polls, and these voters have been more likely to vote for Trump. But that anxiety doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal economic circumstances, which for many Trump voters, at least in a relative sense, are reasonably good.”


4. CL - October 20, 2016

“While there does seem to be a relationship between economic anxiety and Trump’s appeal, the straightforward connection that many observers have assumed does not appear in the data….
Yet while Trump’s supporters might be comparatively well off themselves, they come from places where their neighbors endure other forms of hardship…
Trump’s supporters tend to be blue-collar men with lower levels of education….those with greater incomes were modestly more likely to favor Trump..
Trump supporters might not be experiencing acute economic distress, but they are living in places that lack economic opportunity for the next generation….


5. Gewerkschaftler - October 20, 2016

I saw that article – a good counter-blast from someone who knows what she’s writing about, unlike so many journalists who come from somewhere quite different, socially and economically.

Of course demonising of the poorest and least educated part of the working class has been the order of the day, for some time. If only they would have the decency to die younger…


6. gendjinn - October 20, 2016

Ava Duvernay’s documentary 13th about the 13th amendment and the history of racism in the US along with Thomas Frank talking about how the Democrats walked away from blue collar workers and the unions, flesh out areas Smarsh didn’t have the space to detail.


7. CL - October 20, 2016

“The fatal flaw in the notion that white working-class people may flock to Trump is that partisanship is fairly stable. Trump will no doubt do great with white right-wingers who didn’t go to college, but there’s no reason to think that large numbers of white working-class voters who identify as Democrats are going to have some kind of epiphany and embrace Trumpism.
In November, Trump will almost certainly win this group nationwide. He’ll run up big margins in the Deep South and Mountain states, and that will obscure the fact that Clinton did fine with non-college-educated whites in the North and on the West Coast.”


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