Trump voters are Romney voters

At CT and just about everywhere else, there’s been lots of discussion about who is voting for Trump and why. This began during the Republican primaries, when it made sense to ask “what kind of Republican would prefer Trump to Bush, Cruz etc?”.

This kind of discussion continued through the general election, even though the answer is now staring us in the face. Trump is getting overwhelming support from self-described Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, and almost none from Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents. The same was true for Romney four years ago, and for McCain and Bush before him.

This is well known, but few people seem to have drawn the obvious conclusion*. With marginal changes (I’ll discuss these below), the people who are voting for Trump now voted for Romney four years ago, and for Bush before that.

This makes nonsense of much of the discussion of Trump voters as the dispossessed, protesting against globalisation, predatory capitalism and the destruction of American manufacturing. Conversely, it turns out that the discussion of Romney’s “dog whistle” appeals to racism was misconceived. Replacing the dog whistle with a bullhorn has turned out to be no problem for the great majority of those who voted for Romney.

What matters to Romney/Trump voters is what Romney and Trump have in common. Trivially, they have both been nominated by the Republican party and their supporters are Republican partisans. But that’s a bit like saying that opium makes you sleepy because of its dormitive quality. People are Republican partisans because they agree with the core elements of the Republican position: white Christianist identity politics, opposition to (non-white) immigration, and anti-poor, anti-union economic and social policies. What Trump has done is to show that some things previously thought to be core Republican commitments (free trade, for example) are actually peripheral.

Of course, the overlap is not 100 per cent. The (small) group of Republicans who aren’t voting for Trump is different from the (also small) group who didn’t vote for Romney: the never-Trumpers are mostly women and college graduates, while the anti-Romney Repubs presumably included some stereotypical Trump voters (with the qualification that they identified as Republicans well before Trump came along).

In addition, it’s necessary to take account of demographic changes, newly registered voters, differences in turnout and switches in party affiliation. Demographic changes have mostly favored the Democrats. Trump has claimed to be driving new registrations, but I’ve seem no evidence of this. Republicans have had a net benefit from switchers, but that’s mostly a continuation/completion of the long migration of Southern white nationlists away from the Democratic party.

Overall, though, the problem is simple. If you want to explain Trump’s support base, you need to start from the fact that he shares it with Romney and Bush.

* Corey here at CT and elsewhere has probably been the most consistent exponent of the view that Trump is a traditional Republican, in the line of Goldwater and Reagan. I broadly agree, though I’d put more stress on new developments over the past 20 years or so. Trump’s complete disregard for truth, norms of decency and so on, is an extrapolation of a process that’s been going on for quite a while, at the popular level with Fox News, birtherism and so on and in the Republican intellectual apparatus with climate denial, zombie economics and attacks on “political correctness”.

89 thoughts on “Trump voters are Romney voters

  1. This is definitely a major theme of Pearlstein’s books on modern movement conservatism. The worst, most evil elements of the Republican Party are the reason its supporters are supporters. Famously he met a conservative who told him he didn’t really like Nixon until Watergate. A part of the huge task of fixing American politics is improving those inferior people.

  2. Yes. It is still a depressing surprise that party identification has triumphed so completely over Trump’s massive, obvious and unusual personal flaws, ranging from sexual predation and petty spite to indifference to policy to business fraud to being a Russian catspaw. If Hannibal Lecter were the nominee, they would still vote for him.

    Krugman makes a good point that the few Republican nevertrumpers surprisingly include the national security neocons, but not the partisan economists.

  3. I wonder which of the supposed core left-wing values are not actually core any more?

    The case you mention for the right, free trade, has morphed in recent years into big business having a free rein, unfettered by the will of the people, and that it remained a core value as long as it did is a measure of the lobbying effectiveness of big business.

  4. Apparently, Trump’s Australian supporters are “mostly people who are tired of being told what to think and what to do. Also tired of being told how awful they are. Tired of being told how ignorant, and racist, and sexist, and … yes, how deplorable they are.”

    I’m totally nonplussed as to what have they done to deserve to be free from any censure of their behaviour? I see no evidence of anything decent that they have to offer as an alternative to the evil left.

    All I can see in the comments I read on the rwnj sites are ignorant, fact free, childish dummy spits by the most awful and badly raised group of people who have ever lived. They must have these beliefs about their superiority because they mistakenly believe that they have the genes that make them unassailable as the masters of the universe; there is nothing else that they have that would suggest any superiority or even competence in any field of endeavour except claiming to be the high point of evolution because they are not lefties.

    Such simple and nasty people; the foundation of their vote for Trump is as this most succinct comment makes clear; “I’d vote for him because he would rid us of the leftist pap which stifles us on a daily basis. ”

    Leftist pap? Stifled? OMG, it is so like a spoiled child complaining that the world is unfair.

    But at least an Essential poll a few weeks ago found that only 15 percent of Australians would vote for Donald Trump.

  5. This morning one of the LNP members of federal parliament has come out in favor of the Donald.
    One of the reasons he is supporting him is because he will get rid of ” This Climate Change nonsense”.
    I guess that statement says more about the member than the Donald.
    So this is the level of deep thought exhibited by a person, who is elected in Australia and will be taken as some insightful knowledge of world affairs, god help us.

  6. You went skipped from Romney to Bush, omitting McCain. Aren’t his voters worth discussing?

  7. So, why then did the Republicans choose Trump and not one of the other Republican candidates?

  8. @Paul Wellings Just a mental typo. I realised this an hour or so ago, then read your comment when I came back to the page. Fixed now, thanks

    @Troy Prideaux The OP was specifically about the general election and not the primaries. But, the same point applies. The Repubs who chose Trump were mostly people who’d voted for Romney in 2012.

  9. John Brookes :
    I wonder which of the supposed core left-wing values are not actually core any more?
    The case you mention for the right, free trade, has morphed in recent years into big business having a free rein, unfettered by the will of the people, and that it remained a core value as long as it did is a measure of the lobbying effectiveness of big business.

    We’d need to define left wing first. Few thinkers from around the world would classify Hillary Clinton as left wing. Economically, more centre-right than anything.

  10. I think of the Dems as being conservatives and Repubs as being insane, criminal or just nasty conservatives. Underneath it all is racism and religion.

  11. @wilful

    By “left wing” I mean me! (and that is regardless of whether I actually am left wing or not)

    I suppose in these times I’d define left wing as a belief that the best result for society is not to just let business have its way, but to tax effectively and use that tax for socially desirable outcomes. Among those outcomes would be a reduction in inequality, good education and health care for all, and equality of opportunity. And you can throw in stuff about the environment.

    This seems reasonably ambitious to me, but no doubt the more genuine lefties here can add their bit.

  12. But at least an Essential poll a few weeks ago found that only 15 percent of Australians would vote for Donald Trump.

    No it didn’t.

    The question was:

    “How concerned would you be if Donald Trump was elected US President?”

    The total “Not concerned” was 14%.

    There was no question in that poll asking:

    “How concerned would you be if Hillary Clinton was elected US President?”

    It would have been of some use to have included such a question.

  13. FtR Privare correspondence 12 Oct 16 from me to patient friendl


    I was amused by the contrasting “October surprises” sprung on the candidates.

    The REP Wikileaks OS featured HRC petitioning the Devil  (Goldman Sachs) for $3m in return for Opening the Borders to South America and handing over the keys of US Treasury With a bonus promise to the Israel Lobby to regime change 

    Assad, another scalp to hang next to Hussein & Gaddaffi. Quite a trophy room you got there Hilary!

    The DEM OS featured DJT using the word “pussy” in some locker room banter 

    No prizes for guessing which got the most political mileage 

    His fat- and slut-shaming seem to have lost the self righteous chick vote 

    Still I predict he will close some of the 6% gap by Election Day Angry white males don’t much care about men behaving badly They just want to get even 

    Its a pity that Trumps sleazy personality detracts from his sensible nationalist policy But that’s what happens when the King loses touch and the Court Jester attempts to ascend the Throne. 


    Just because Trump closed the gap doesnt mean he will win. The demographic fix is in, plus he just pissed off too many educated whites.

    So I put another $300 on HRC today. That makes an even 1K.

    At least one honest person will profit from her vicfory.

  14. Pr Q said:

    With marginal changes (I’ll discuss these below), the people who are voting for Trump now voted for Romney four years ago, and for Bush before that.

    Shorter Quiggin: Trump is REP core business as usual, only louder.

    This seems to miss the key issue of the election: Trump has openly courted the white working class, with success according to Pew survey reported in WaPo

    According to Pew data, white registered voters with a high school degree or less leaned toward the Democratic Party by a 50-41 margin in 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected to his first term as president. And Democrats still led among this demographic as recently as the late 2000s. Today, though, they have taken a sharp turn for the GOP, and they currently lean Republican by a whopping 26 points — 59 percent to 33 percent. That’s a net shift of 35 points between 1992 and today

    More generally this election is not about changing American policy regarding immigration or trade. It is about the struggle for the soul of the REP party. Trump has come and will go. But populist nationalism is here to stay.

    Essentially the corrupt bargain of the post Cold War era – the DEM ethnic Left get the votes whilst the REP economic Right get the bucks – is over. The white Main Street working/middle class can no longer tolerate the REP Wall Street/DEM Mean Street pincer movement. The multiculti feminist DEM party despises them. So their only hope is to reform the REPs.

    The enemy is the REP Establishment. Trump wants to impose term limits on members of Congress. This will hurt the REP Establishment where it lives, in its gerrymandered rotten boroughs – which is just the old Court House gang in the age of the one per cent.

    This is the institutional basis for the REP-RNC-K-Street axis of evil formed by Gingrich-Norquist-Abrahamof in the aftermath of Reagans victorious Cold War end game. If this axis can be broken it maybe possible to rescue the REPs – and maybe even save the world with some climate realism.

    THE defeat of Eric Cantor – the REP House Majority leader and effectively the US PM – by a proto-Trump candidate shows that Trumps attack on the REP Establishment can work without him, provided the REP white working class base can mobilise in preselection.

    The key issue is not which party sits in the White House but whether the REP base can regain control of Congressional representatives.

    Congress controls the purse strings and writes the special interest legislation larded with lobbyist pork. So long as the REPs control the House this cosy relationship suits the interested parties. This works for them so long as minorities dont vote much in congressional elections, an assumption that has held up, till now.

    The Presidency is not the most important branch of government. That would be Congress which is more or less owned by REP Inc. Congress proposes, the President only disposes. Which is why the resurgent REP House was so keen to show Obama who was the real shut-down boss

    The DEMs can have the Presidency which now, in these piping times of peace, looks more and more like an office available for token minority hire. Rainbow coalitions like quotas. Which is a pity because a war-time C-in-C can do a lot of good. In any case, the Deep State control the most important cabinet posts – State/NSA and Treasury.

    Whch is why the REP Establishment are not too cut up about losing 6 out of last 7 Presidential popular votes. BUT notice how Tea Party angry they got when they lost congress and had to put up with Obamacare.

    Trump threatens to upend the REP cosy Congressional apple cart. If he can get push thst rickety vehicle into a ditch he deserves two cheers for democracy.

  15. @D

    “It would have been of some use to have included such a question.”

    I don’t think so. But maybe JQ would be interested in know why you would have liked to have known the numbers for this tricky questions that would have had such a bigly different results. yeah right. 🙂

    The absurd tantrum by the ugly bullying white men and the prostitutes who rely on them for a living is a last ditch response to the fact that your type of human being is dying out, so much for survival of the fittest eh? Who woulda thought that the great white apes would be bred out of existence by the brown people and their fecundity? lol.

    And not only that but your type of bully are not being raised any more.

    Of course there are some people who continue to bring up spoiled self-centered little boys who are told they will be prime minister one day – rofl – indulgent parents are the source of so much dysfunction in their children and to coach their children to ‘troll’ left wing teachers.

    I have read this on rwnj sites and have read that some old farts have threatened their descendants with disinheritance if they turn into ‘lefties’. Hilarious. The great march through the institutions is nearly complete.

    And because I do talk to rwnj’s in my little town in this totally right wing electorate and I even have a couple of them as friends on my fb page and guess what?

    They still hate muslims even though they have never even met one and they still post stupid memes about how they rip us off by taking all the welfare despite me telling them how annoyed I am about this, but then they post memes about how Trumps father should have worn a condom.

    So speaking from my on the ground experience, I don’t see any support for Trump among the ‘normal’ Aussie bigots. And I am going to have to go up the post office wearing my hijab if they don’t stop posting the stupid muslim memes.

  16. Surely the thing about free trade is explained by the differences in aims and outlooks between the base and the elite within the party? The latter identify with the rich and favour the ‘free’ trade policies that help them, whilst distracting the base with racism and xenophobia?

  17. “How concerned would you be if the Sun went supernova?”
    The total “Not concerned” was 14%

  18. I do not recall a #neverRomney movement in 2012 among leading conservatives, nor Republican primary candidates refusing to vote for Romney, nor the Libertarian candidate getting 5% rather than less than 1%. Given this loss of traditional Republican voters, some of this loss is coming from blue dog Democrats.

    A large number of people are voting for Trump because they hate Clinton more. She is a battle scarred old warhorse who has accumulated plenty of enemies. Clinton had trouble seeing off a grumpy old Socialist in the primary who was not even a member of the party

    You must ask if a half decent Republican candidate, practically anyone else in the GOP field, ran against Clinton, they would have had a very good chance?

    It should also be remembered that Trump was the weakest front-runner in modern Republican history. His campaign was greatly helped by a bizarre spoiler campaign by Kasich who is now voting for John McCain in the general

  19. Jim Rose is right (for once) – people are going to prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t. I’m predicting (its early Tuesday morning US time) a surprisingly comfortable win for Hillary. It wouldn’t be so if the Repubs had picked a boring candidate.

    Mind you, Hillary aint actually much of a devil in reality – “battle scarred old warhorse” is about the worst you can say of her and still be accurate. That, and maybe that she’s a bit too fond of dropping bombs on brown people (not that that has lost her any votes).

  20. @Jim Rose

    “You must ask if a half decent Republican candidate, practically anyone else in the GOP field, ran against Clinton, they would have had a very good chance?”

    Such a shame for you rwnj’s eh that the stupid GOP couldn’t or didn’t pick someone better. 🙂 What went wrong?

    But who would you suggest? A moderate like our Turnbull would have had everyone one of you loonies voting for him? No?

    Seems Turnbull isn’t doing so well in the polls, not that anyone like the biased to the right ABC has mentioned the rapidly shrinking numbers who will vote for Turnbull. Did you see the latest polls?

    I remember back when Julia was PM, Fran Kelly couldn’t wait every morning to mention the polls and ask some Labor person when there would be a new leader. But today? Not a mention.

    Just hopin and dreamin and prayin for a Trump win has been such a fun and wild ride for you poor old white men and your non feminist women. It has been a diversion from the pathetic group of people who are the right wing parties here. But no matter the result, over there, here Turnbull is your man. Who else is there?

    Just watched a clip from Q and A on fb in which a very erudite man with a good grasp of the situation asked a question about transition to renewable energy and that numptie James Patterson – a chinless libertarian if ever I saw one – was gobsmacked and could only say he was “agnostic”. Agnostic? Not a lot of leadership talent there eh?

    Where is Cory Bernardi and his new Conservative party? I’ve even read suggestions from your lot that Gina Rhinehart should become an Australian Trump having the money and all. But she can’t handle her champagne and falls over baring her white legs – not to mention the mutton dressed as lamb – and then Abbott falls out of the fire truck. One would think God wasn’t on your side?

    Not to mention Pauline and co who don’t seem to be going that well; seems to be some of her team have not been very honest people and I’m wondering how well they will travel as a party with no unifying ideas about how to fix all the problems that blight their sad and lonely lives.

    Sad. 🙂

  21. @Jack M. Strocchi

    You have misrepresented the research finding you quote. ‘With a high school education or less’ is not the same thing as ‘working class’ (and ‘more than a high school education’ is not the same thing as ‘not working class’); so evidence of a shift in the voting behaviour of people with a high school education or less is not the same thing as evidence of a shift in the voting behaviour of the working class.

  22. Just watching someof it on TV. Clintonites are bad enough with their saccharine, starry-eyed gush, but the Trumpite hillbillies are beyond the pale, utterly deranged types who make Hansonists look sane by comparison (much the same thing, I know).

    Its a sort of Brady Bunch V the Mountain-men of the movie “Deliverance”.

    The brief interlude of commonsense came from Mexico, with Mexicans scornful of the US in its fantasy world, especially Trumpites.

  23. Today’s “Essential” poll does contain the following question:

    “If you had a vote in the US Presidential election, would you vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?”

    The results were that Australians polled said:

    Clinton: 59%
    Trump: 19%
    Don’t know: 22%

    The footnote says:

    A question asked in October 2012 about which candidate was most preferred resulted in Barack Obama 63%, Mitt Romney 9%, no difference 17% and don’t know 11%.

  24. No matter who the people vote for they will get the same policies: namely endless war, endless despoliation of the natural environment and endless capitalism. Of course, these things are not endless, although it does feel like it. Unsustainable trends continue… until they can’t.

  25. Ikonoclast #28 – don’t you think that’s a bit of a textbook case of moral equivalence?

  26. – The mood for change is so great that Trump is close even though his campaign is an underfunded shambles with so much established power against him. With just a bit of support from the mainstream media which created him he would win. No wonder he feels hard done by.

    – How can a personality type like him be so attractive to so many (or even to anyone at all ?) ? .I can only think of one use for such a type ,- if I was to need a representative in a winner takes all fight to the death. Is this how so many see life ?

    – I’m not convinced a more normal GOP candidate would have beaten Hillary ,it would have just been her machine v’s theirs in the kind of contest she was borne for. In 4 years time ,after a HRC win , there wont have been change and the Democrats will be to blame. Sometimes you cant fix something without breaking it first.

  27. Ikonoclast :
    No matter who the people vote for they will get the same policies: namely endless war, endless despoliation of the natural environment and endless capitalism. Of course, these things are not endless, although it does feel like it. Unsustainable trends continue… until they can’t.

    So you would have not voted? Or voted Stein? And in 2000, voted Nader?

  28. No one seems to have noticed, but Hillary is a woman. Her election as the country’s “patriarch” is quite a milestone event – albeit a sign of the times. IMHO she’s done an amazing job of navigating potential stereotype traps of getting elected as a woman. No one disputes her capabilities but her main electoral deficit seems that no one likes her personality (apart from me.) Being a chatty and likeable woman seems (to me) in US perceptions to indicate insufficient substance to be president. Two steps in the other direction and she’d be the bitch from Hell. It’s a narrow path.

  29. Hang onto your seats . Instead of the first woman president we may be about to get a bloke who brags about sexual assault .

  30. Gleeful Trump supporters at Sydney Uni are running around yelling “grab them by the pussy. That’s how we do it”.

    You wonder what this will unleash – globally. Brexit was just the appetiser.

    We’ll find out soon enough.

  31. Well, whoever these Trump voters are, they surely have an impact on financial markets – equity as well as foreign exchange.

  32. @wilful

    The pointing out of a dilemma is not a claim that one has a solution to the dilemma. However, the corruption of the Clintons and the DNC in colluding against Bernie Sanders’ nomination has not worked out well for them. I wonder if the corrupt arm of the Democratic Party will learn anything from this? Well, it won’t learn anything, of course, but I wonder if the rest the Democratic Party will now cut that corrupt arm off?

    The current madness is something the US must go through. The disillusion with Obama will look tame compared to the coming disillusion with Trump. Anyone who thinks a billionaire cares about poor people is sadly deluded.

    “Leaked Emails Suggest DNC Was Conspiring Against Bernie Sanders” – Huffington Post.

  33. Trump won a bigger share of African American voters and Latino voters than did Romney.

  34. I have been trying to work out the implications of. Trump presidency for global efforts to combat climate change. On the one hand, he has said he will repudiate the Paris agreement, which is unquestionably a bad thing. On the other hand, it isn’t clear whether that, optics aside, will significantly affect the efforts of the rest of the world to implement the agreement. Furthermore, emissions reductions in the US itself appear to be driven mostly by structural factors, rather than Federal government policy settings, so a Trump presidency may not change that, even with the assistance of a pro-fossil fuel Congress.

    So on reflection, a Trump presidency may not be as bad for climate change policy as at first it appears. That’s the ‘glass half full’ perspective, anyway.

  35. That should be ‘implications of a Trump presidency’, not ‘implications of. Trump presidency’. Blergh.

  36. Now that Trump is Emperor he will have to bring the jobs back and make America great quick smart. Markets and $US are down which will make this promise a bit more hard to achieve.

  37. Abbott didn’t make anything better for the rwnj’s so I don’t think their elation will last for very long before they are again disappointed that there is no great man who will come along and put it all back the way it should be.

    Trump has no idea what he will do and he has no idea how to make those who voted for him any happier than they are now.

    But at least the poor fools who wanted him to win will have a few days of happiness as they contemplate the lefty heads exploding all around them. lol.

  38. THis went 1000% against my instincts.

    There will now be a political earthquake such as we have never seen.

  39. Julie Thomas :
    Abbott didn’t make anything better for the rwnj’s

    But Julie that was someone else’s fault. Labor, the Greens, unions, latte-sippers, Russians, Chinese. There’s always an out for failure to deliver. Trump will be the same.

  40. Trump trumped Romney’s support base by a substantial margin. I think Trump tapped into the general sense that the entire political system is broken, so voting Trump is like sticking two fingers up at the system. Another thing that came across is that people do believe that Trump will be an arsehole but against the enemies of America. Whoever the enemies are…that bit isn’t clearly stipulated.

    This general disgruntlement with the system has been happening around the world, especially in countries rocked by the GFC. Quite frankly though, I haven’t seen any indication that Donald Trump will address the poverty and unemployment, homelessness, etc, that the combined GFC and lack of social security safety net has imposed upon those who were in the wrong job at the wrong time. If Trump thinks that ratcheting up law-n-order is the solution, that’ll just mean America will continue to be the highest imprisonment rate per capita prison system in the world.

    My guess is that a lot of the Trump supporters are going to find out that what Trump wants isn’t what they want.

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