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Who Supported Trump?

peopleImmediately after the 2016 presidential election, I took off for a 10-day trip, first to Los Angeles, and then to Salt Lake City for an international tradeshow on Supercomputing. Wherever I went, almost every taxi driver, theater-goer, restaurant worker, and fellow tradeshow exhibitor and attendee I talked to mentioned the election results. Since this tradeshow of more than 11 thousand attendees included people from all over the world, I heard an interesting mix of points of view. With only a single exception, every person expressed shock and dismay. 

Especially from people from outside of the US, there were two things that were said over and over again that I disagreed with but didn’t have a response to. So I vowed to do some research and write this up when I got home. Here goes…

1. “Half the USA voted for Trump.”

First of all, many people said, “Half of the country voted for Trump!” This is not true. The actual results (as of November 21) is 47% to Trump and 48% to Clinton. But this is not a percentage of the US population: it’s just the percentage of votes cast. Of the whole US population, only about 67% are eligible to vote. Of those who are eligible, only about 67% registered. Of those who were registered, about 90% voted. (This 90% number seems suspect to me, but I think I got that right…) So when you look more closely, only 19% of Americans voted for Trump. 

Here are the numbers to support this:

  • 63,551,979 Voted for Clinton
  • 61,898,584 Voted for Trump
  • 7,448,890 Voted for others
  • 132,899,453 Total votes cast in the election
  • 324,982,908 Total US population
  • 218,959,000 Total number of Americans eligible to vote
  • 146,311,000 Total number of Americans registered to vote
  • 19.0% % of US population who voted for Trump
  • 67.4% % of Americans eligible to vote
  • 66.8% % of Eligible voters who registered
  • 90.8% % of Registered voters who voted
  • 40.9% % of US citizens who voted

And here are my sources for these numbers:

2. “Anyone who voted from Trump is a horrible person.”

Because Trump has said some pretty abhorrent things, many people say that it follows that anyone who voted for him is a horrible person, or just stupid. As much as I really despise the man, I disagree that all the Trump supporters are bad people. In fact, I think a pretty big percentage of them are just normal people like you and me. (I do think a huge swath of them fell for a pack of lies, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)

If you take that set of 19% of Americans who voted for Trump and make a pie chart out of their reasons for that vote, below is what you would probably have. (VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: The reason I say probably is because I could not find a reliable source of data on people’s Trump votes, so I am making this up based on a combination of guesses and gut feel based on what I’ve heard and read, a bit of intuition, and a sprinkling of hope. If anyone knows a source for this info I’d very happily recreate this chart):


Here’s how this works out — and again, this is not based on facts:

  • Change. First you’d have a pretty big slice of people who are not doing well financially and want change, and they were misled by Trump’s assurances that he can fix things. They want Change with a capital C, and that’s what they want from Trump. Frankly they will likely get it, but they might not like it.
  • Anti-Clinton. Then you’d have a pretty big slice of people who aren’t so wild about Trump, but saw him as a better alternative than Hillary (because of the effective lies out there).
  • Trumpsters. There’d be a slice for people who just genuinely like Trump and think he is a good businessman and will be a great president (I shake my head as I type this).
  • Religious single-issue voters. A thin slice for mega-Christians and zealots who are anti-abortion or anti gay-marriage and would vote for ANYBODY who promised to outlaw it.
  • Immigration. Another thin slice for people who are anti-immigration yet do not belong in the slice containing the bigots or the slice containing the “Change with a Capital C” people — perhaps these are the people who have bought into the fear that immigrants take American jobs and increase terrorism and violence.
  • Horrible people (aka scumbags). Then finally a thin slice representing people who are racists, misogynists, bigots, and homophobes who based their vote on that position, with a small percentage of those being scary white supremacists, holocaust deniers, and other super-scum.

My point is that there are plenty of Trump supporters who are not homophobic, racist, or stupid. Probably many of them see our government needing a change and are looking Trump to do that, or just couldn’t vote for Clinton. We need to reach out to these people, yet labeling Trump supporter as stupid or horrible will prevent that.

BTW, here is a good article on the Guardian site showing some reasonable people’s reasons for voting for Trump.