Through the Eyes of Super Trump Voters

August 12, 2020

Recently, I received the latest survey data set from the American National Election Studies (ANES), a consortium of Stanford University and The University of Michigan. It is a national online survey of 3080 adults (but contains Party designation) completed in July. As typical of academic surveys, it is a massive file containing hundreds of questions.

This particular study is called an Exploratory Testing Survey, which means that most of the questions are unique and provided by academic members of the ANES.

It provides an opportunity to look at how voters feel about issues not usually included in polls. My interest is how Trump voters actually feel about Donald Trump and his particular style of governing. In other words, questions that go beyond the usual job approval ratings.

I used the headline “Super Trump Voters,” to describe voters who would still vote for him even if he shot Mike Pence on Fifth Avenue. Like almost all academic political surveys, instead of a favorable rating, they use the Thermometer rating which ranges from 0 degrees to 100 degrees, where 0 to 49 degrees are in the cold range and those 51 and above are warmer.

I personally use the this scale in most of my surveys because it not only tells how voters like or dislike a candidate, but also the intensity of their feelings. I will admit that it is rare to see a 100 degree rating for a politician.

But in the case of Trump, that wasn’t the case. Some 345 voters gave him a 100 degree rating or almost 12% of the sample. My assumption is that any voter who rates Donald Trump a 100, is more than just a Trump voter but a “super” Trump voter. It does not represent all people who support Donald Trump, but only those who see him like a famous rock star.

The survey included questions on what I would call character assessments, such as leadership and that he cares about people. In the first table below, we see if Trump voters’ see him as empathizing with them.

Really cares about people like you. - How well do each of the following traits describe Donald Trump...					
 		             Frequency	Percent             	
	1. Extremely well	263	76.2		
	2. Very well	53	15.4	15.4	
	3. Moderately well	19	5.5		
	4. Slightly well	4	1.2		
	5. Not well at all	6	1.7		
	Total	               345	100.0		

With Trump supporters, 91.6% say the statement fits the President either extremely well or very well. This question was designed to measure empathy and most politicians would kill for this rating.

Table 2 Dignified. – How well do each of the following traits describe Donald Trump?
1.Extremely well20860.3
2. Very well8424.3
3. Moderately well3911.3
4. Slightly well82.3
5. Not well at all61.7

We expect our President, of course, to be dignified and it relates to his ability represent the United States to the world. It is a trait that his favorite President Andrew Jackson did not have. His inauguration party at the White House attracted some 20,000 supporters who drank every bottle of liquor they could find and it took three weeks to clean the house up.

Table 3 Honest. – How well do each of the following traits describe Donald Trump?
1. Extremely well24370.4 
2. Very well6819.7 
3. Moderately well247.0 
4. Slightly well72.0 
5. Not well at all3.9 

And, of course, we expect our President to be honest, just like Honest Abe Lincoln, who’s likeness is carved into Mount Rushmore and where there is still room for another president.

In Table 4 below, some 82% say the statement he is “Authentic” fits him extremely extremely well.

Table 4 Authentic. – How well do each of the following traits describe Donald Trump?
1. Extremely well28382.0  
2. Very well4011.6  
3. Moderately well113.2  
4. Slightly well51.4  
5. Not well at all51.4  
99. Missing1.3  

I know some might disagree with this statement, but I would have to say that having spent half a day with him when he was renovating Mar-A-Largo, he maybe not authentic but he was certainly different.

Table 5 Divisive. – How well do each of the following traits describe Donald Trump?
1. Extremely well14441.7  
2. Very well5816.8  
3. Moderately well329.3  
4. Slightly well267.5  
5. Not well at all8524.6  

I was somewhat surprised that as many as 42% Trump supporters called him “divisive.” Divisive is not a superlative people normally use for someone they respect or admire. That said, it is in my opinion it is accurate and indicates that his base likes this aspect of him.

Table 6 Knowledgeable. – How well do each of the following traits describe Donald Trump?
1. Extremely well26576.8  
2. Very well5816.8  
3. Moderately well144.1  
4. Slightly well51.4  
5. Not well at all3.9  

Here is where I disagree with his avid supporters’ opinion. Donald Trump is not a reader and history is not his strong point. In fact, he has made fact checking a full time profession.

Very few studies so far have looked into the opinions of Trump’s loyalist base. The current social psychological evaluations suggest that some Trump supporters lean toward authoritarianism. But if nothing else, this data paints a picture of Americans who see a decisive leader that can on occasion be divisive.

I have to admit that my short time with him in the late 1990’s, revealed a man dead certain about his opinions. I could tell I was irritating him by suggesting that more study of the subject was needed. As I was about to leave, he stood up and pointed his finger at me and said “if I do it they will come…” When he ran for President he was right. They came and voted for him. Be safe…

By Jim Kane

Jim Kane is a pollster and media advisor, and was for fifteen years an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Kane is founder of the polling firm USAPoll and served as the Director of the Florida Voter Poll. His political clients have included both Republican and Democratic candidates, including the Republican Party of Florida, and both the Sun-Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel newspapers. At the University of Florida, Professor Kane taught graduate level courses in political science on Survey Research, Lobbying and Special Interest Groups in America, Political Campaigning, and Political Behavior. In addition to his professional and academic career, Jim Kane has been actively involved in local and state policy decisions. He was elected to the Broward County Soil and Water Conservation Board (1978-1982) and the Port Everglades Authority (1988-1994). Kane also served as an appointed member of the Broward County Planning Council (1995-2003), Broward County Management Review Committee (Chair, 1990-1991), Broward County Consumer Protection Board (1976-1982), and the Broward County School Board Consultants Review Committee (1986-1990).

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