With the rise of the Donald Trump phenomenon, Working America—the “community affiliate” of the AFL-CIO with three million members—sent out canvassers in attempt to “better understand the attitudes and assumptions behind the support for Donald Trump specifically, and the rise of right-wing populism broadly.”
From December 18, 2015, to January 22, 2016, Working America canvassers visited with 1,689 likely voters with household incomes of $75,000 or less in working-class neighborhoods outside Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
What they came back with is both unexpected, yet unsurprising.
Among some of the group’s key findings: It’s Still The Economy, Stupid.
Worry is more prevalent than bigotry in determining voter choices. Historically, about one-third of the people we encounter on the canvass are ideologically right-leaning – and this test was no different. Among these voters, attacks on immigrants; on African-Americans, including President Obama; and on Muslims resonate, and hold sway.
However, a far greater number of prospective voters are more deeply concerned about the economy and about their fates, and the future of their families, in a time of rapid change.
Additional findings include:
- More than half of the voters (53%) have yet to decide on a presidential candidate, and 60% of undecided voters did not express a party preference.
- Donald Trump was favored by more than a third of those who chose a candidate (38%), overwhelming all other Republican candidates (27% combined). Nearly the same number chose one of two Democratic candidates, Clinton (22%) or Sanders (12%).
- While most of Trump’s support comes from the staunch Republican base, 1 in 4 Democrats who chose a candidate showed a preference for Trump.
- Personality was far more important than issues among Trump supporters. Nearly half of voters who identified themselves as supporters liked him because “he speaks his mind.”
- A third of Trump supporters said they would be unwilling to vote for anyone else if Trump is not the nominee.
- Party loyalty did not determine candidate choice as much as expected. Of Trump partisans, 58% said they would support him even if he runs as an independent. Additionally, a small number of Trump supporters were considering a Democrat if Trump doesn’t end up on the ballot.
- Good jobs/the economy, which is historically the priority concern of Working America constituents, remains the top issue among voters we talked with, at 27%, with homeland security and terrorism next (14%) and health care as the third most frequently cited priority (10%).
- Immigration was the top issue for only 5% of all those canvassed, but for Trump supporters it was the third–most-important issue (cited by 14%), after good jobs/the economy (29%) and homeland security and terrorism (21%). Voters for whom immigration is the priority issue are often Trump partisans (48%), but overall, those who prioritize immigration are a relatively small number.
- Our canvassers shared that, anecdotally, of those voters who chose Donald Trump, about a third were firm in their support for him. But the rest were open to a discussion.
- Thoughtful conversations with trusted messengers can move voters away from right-wing populism to a different take on the issues. Providing them with an independent source to help them sort through the deluge of information through a unique communications channel – face–to-face engagement – is critical to that evolution. [Emphasis added]
Read more here.