'More Affluent Americans Favor Trump'

The notion that Donald Trump's political rise was propelled by economic distress among working-class whites takes a hit in an enormous survey that the Gallup organization has released. As The Washington Post sums it up:

According to this new analysis, those who view Trump favorably have not been disproportionately affected by foreign trade or immigration, compared with people with unfavorable views of the Republican presidential nominee. The results suggest that his supporters, on average, do not have lower incomes than other Americans, nor are they more likely to be unemployed.

Yet while Trump's supporters might be comparatively well off themselves, they come from places where their neighbors endure other forms of hardship. In their communities, white residents are dying younger, and it is harder for young people who grow up poor to get ahead.

Based on a survey of some 87,000 people, Gallup analyst Jonathan Rothwell found that "Trump's supporters are significantly further to the right even of other Republicans" and that "The standard economic measures of income and employment status show that, if anything, more affluent Americans favor Trump, even among white non-Hispanics."

I've been suspicious about the "economic distress" explanation for Trump's triumph in the Republican primaries ever since noticing how popular he's been among Republicans in Nassau County, a well-to-do suburb of New York City.  It's more complex than that, and I think Trump's celebrity should not be ignored as an ingredient. His celebrity image allowed him to be more blunt in stirring up the resentment of his supporters toward foreigners and others deemed "losers." 

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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