Donald Trump was merely a reality show host before he became a candidate for the GOP nomination. As we now know, he had been badly underestimated. Trump had glimpsed an America everyone else had missed, a vision he believed just might carry him into the White House.
Now after numerous sold-out campaign events and a recent string of wins knocking out Republican leaders such as Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, Donald Trump has become the nominee, forcing Ted Cruz to exit the race. It is now clear Trump has tapped into something long dormant in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans.
Trump voters are made up of people from all walks of life. Poor Republicans after years of being conned by the Washington elite have aired their grievances and made the decision to vote Trump. Many believe it all came together for Trump in 2008 when he noticed Sarah Palin’s surprising popularity during the presidential campaign. While others were laughing at her seemingly naïve grasp of the facts, Mr. Trump was admiring the enthusiasm her supporters gave to her politically incorrect, anti-establishment remarks.
Both Trump and Palin’s messages resonated with a constituency that were pumped to support someone who added fuel to the fire of their rage. Rage at the loss of jobs to foreign countries, anger at the illegal immigrants coming over the border murdering Americans across the country and frustration at their party for giving the rich tax breaks instead of supporting the lower class. In contrast to former GOP candidates such as Cruz, Bush and Kasich, many of his supporters are not Republican. Many are still registered as Democrats or Independents. This is also what is keeping Bernie Sanders alive in the Democratic race.
Not every Trump supporter is a poor, embittered white man, heavily armed and barricaded in a backwoods trailer waiting for the Mexicans to come over the hill. Supporters also include many upper middle-class men and women in urban centers, again mostly white, but also including a smattering of minorities. These people are not necessarily motivated by economics, but they do share many other traits of the typical Trump supporter profile. The single best predictor of Trump support in the GOP primary is the absence of a college degree. In an analysis of Trump's blowout win in New Hampshire, Evan Soltas determined that the factor explaining most of the variance in Trump's support in New Hampshire was education.
Although white men without a college education haven’t suffered the same historical discrimination as blacks or women, their suffering is not imagined. The Hamilton Project has found that the full-time, full-year employment rate of men without a bachelor's degree fell from 76 percent in 1990 to 68 percent in 2013. The New York Times found that an overarching indicator of Trump supporters was how they characterized their ancestors, seeing them not as Irish, German, or Italian, but, when questioned, responded that their ancestors were Americans.
Strong supporters include countless upper middle-class men and women in urban centers, mostly white, but also including a sprinkle of minorities. These supporters who put on the cap that says MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN—they want an America that was great when they were growing up. An America where men were married to women and everybody had a good paying job—and of course where all Americans descended from other Americans.
Trump knows what he is doing. His campaign strategy was laid out in his book, "The Art of the Deal." His strategy is: Bully and push, bully and push till you think you can’t get any more, then pivot and turn on the charm and accept the deal. After all the nastiness, your opponent will thank you for being so kind, even though you probably just screwed him over. How solid is Trump’s support?
A Trump supporter even punched a protester during a Trump rally. Uninformed people can be swayed by an argument over the issues. Confronting a misinformed person generally only results in raising their hackles. “Oh no,” they will argue. “I heard this from very respectable sources like Fox News or my congressman.”
After Trump made dozens of controversial statements such as thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheered the 9-11 attacks or that Mexico would pay for the wall, many dismissed the remarks as a joke. His supporters, despite being misinformed, believe he will do what he says. The real Trump supporters will stay true no matter how he changes his policies and turns on the charm.