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The Votes by Income Graph Does Not Prove Working Class Whites Didn’t Break for Trump

So, this little graph is going around and causing people to say that it proves that working class whites did not break for Trump. It says no such thing.

The reasoning is simple. African Americans and Latinos broke hard for Clinton. Exit polls show Clinton got 88 percent of the African American vote, she received 65 percent of the Latino vote.

Poor Latinos and Blacks are a lot poorer than poor whites. That makes up the difference. Meanwhile, we know that the poorer the county, the more likely Trump was to win it, and we know he made his big break-through in the Rust Belt, where there are a lot of poor whites.

We also know Trump got approximately 72 percent vs. 23 percent of white males votes without a college degree, vs. 54 percent/39 percent for those with a college degree.

No, the white working class story, at least so far holds up and it holds up well.

The real story isn’t about working class white males, it is that Clinton lost white women, 43 percent to 53 percent. She lost who you’d expect her to lose, she didn’t win the people who were supposed to be “with her,” and won minorities by lower margins than Obama. She also lost white counties which were willing to go for Obama.

Update: This chart is particularly damning.

Shift In Voters by Income

Shift In Voters by Income


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  1. She also lost the “Big Sort” people, the people who ran for the coasts. This was actually a problem with governance – and nothing was done about it. In fact it was a profit opportunity for the banks.

  2. Ché Pasa

    I live in a relatively poor, majority Hispanic rural county in New Mexico; the vote was close to 70% for Trump — no surprise to me. The ricos are ranchers and farmers and horse breeders and such and they break strongly Republican or Libertarian, though two former Democratic governors — major ranchers both — are from here.

    Democrats are considered “city people,” though, for whom the Cowboy Ethic is foreign. Clinton was/is loathed for her corruption and her many crimes both real and imagined, but mostly because she and her Democratic cohorts have made life constantly more difficult and complicated for people who live out here. They just want to be left alone.

    They feel Trump will do that, and I think they’re in for a big disappointment.

    But we’ll see, won’t we?

  3. Jemand

    When I first saw that graph, I thought age, not race. Older poor Americans are still richer than young poor Americans….. AND their after healthcare cost earnings are much lower percentage of total earnings than average for a younger population.

    There are many things going on, not just one.

  4. This LRB blog post is a very good attempt at integrating the racial-economic factors without giving short shrift to either or making one dependent on the other (around here, usually the racial on the economic, just as terrible a mistake as it would be the other way).

  5. Kim Kaufman

    Revenge of the Forgotten Class

    Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were playing with fire when they effectively wrote off white workers in the small towns and cities of the Rust Belt.

  6. ks

    Ian you’re probably going to have to tweak this as the data comes is especially the whole “She also lost white counties which were willing to go for Obama.” angle if you are implying that it was because of vote switching from Obama to Trump as that doesn’t appear to be the main reason.

    It appears HC lost a good chick of WWC voters who sat out 2016 and didn’t vote for anybody rather than switching from Obana to DT. Nate Cohn tried that “they voted for Obama in 2012 but Trump in 2016” and got roasted in his Twitter feed.

  7. Dean Flemming

    Country (and small town) versus city. I realize that the following article for which I provide the link is from a site for satirical writing, but its salient points are nonetheless more insightful than almost any other newspaper or on-line analyses of Trump’s support. I have happily lived in cities by preference for most of my adult life, but I grew up in the country and can understand all this.

  8. markfromireland


    IIRC a notable feature of the 2012 election was that White voters sat it out in many states. Trump needed to and did successfully get out the vote in this one.

    I am open to correction on this but IIRC the LAT/USC poll was the only that correctly estimated, or more accurately did not underestimate, Obama’s support in the 2012 election just as on this occasion it did not underestimate Trump’s.

  9. Ian Welsh

    The IBD poll also got it right both elections, and was closer in 2008 than most.

  10. Steve

    From my view in Pennsylvania, I would describe this shift a little differently. The most reliable right-wing voters in my area are small/family business owners and front-line managers in larger companies. What these two groups have in common is that their security in earning middle class salaries (or better) is dependent on the efficient and ruthless exploitation of shift workers. If this class fails to exploit properly it is a very far fall for them in status and salary to lower-middle class brushing up against poverty.

    What Trump has done is that he has gotten these shift workers who otherwise lean to the Democratic Party to identify with their managers. And Clinton never spoke to these shift workers. These shift workers didn’t show up to vote, or they supported Trump. This class is not necessarily hostile to social liberalism, but it will not vote for candidates solely on social issues.

  11. Bill Hicks

    She also lost many of us “Bernie Bros,” who she sneeringly said she did not need or want in her coalition. We returned the favor, as evidenced by the fact that Trump won with essentially the same popular vote total Romney received.

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