Trump’s Strength and his Weakness

Anyone paying attention at this point knows that the main basis of Trump’s support comes from whites with less than a college education.   This is a strength is helping him in the GOP primary, but will be huge handicap in the general election should he actually win the nomination. This is all well laid out in an NPR story from earlier in January: Republicans’ White Working-Class Trap: A Growing Reliance.

I would recommend the whole piece and the linked stories if one is truly interested, but let me highlight a few empirical observations.


white working-class voters are […] about half of the Republican electorate.

“They remain an important part of the GOP base,” Kiley said. “And it’s a large part of why there’s been so much attention to them in the Republican primary.”

Working-class voters are still a bedrock of the GOP in two states candidates really want to win — Iowa and New Hampshire. They made up nearly half of Republicans in the 2012 Iowa caucus and 45 percent of voters in the 2012 New Hampshire primary.

And so […] it’s […] nearly impossible for a Republican presidential candidate to win a GOP primary without them. The road to the GOP nomination travels through many white working-class neighborhoods. And that’s one reason it’s been difficult for the party to expand its base.

Second, however, when we look at the electorate as a whole, this base of voters is potential problem for the general election:

In 2012, 36 percent of all voters were white and were not college-educated, down from 65 percent in 1980. In both years, these voters tended to favor the Republican candidate.

These are numbers, as per point number one, that Trump may well be able to exploit as into a nomination.  It will be far, far harder, however, to ride that base to the White House.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. HankP says:

    Trump’s strength is that there are a lot more assholes in this country than people suspected. His weakness is that they’re still in the minority.