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The middle might be shrinking, but it usually trumps the splinters

Peter Brent writes in Inside Story (25.5.17) that, although polling predictions are unusually hazardous at the moment, with some traditional supporters of major parties drifting to the extremes, the political centre generally holds.

‘Which Americans voted for Donald Trump in November’s presidential election? Who comprised that fabled tribe, the sixty-three million “Trump supporters”? Income-wise, according to the New York Times exit poll, they skewed upwards. Hillary Clinton easily won the lowest-income voters (below US$50,000) and Trump took the highest ones. White university graduates also voted for Trump over Clinton.

‘Hang on, can that be right? Aren’t Trump supporters supposed to be white members of the working class with low levels of wealth and education, fed up with elites and political correctness? Wasn’t the result a revolt of the people left behind by globalisation?

‘That much-favoured characterisation only applies to a small portion of people who delivered the White House to the Republican candidate. The bulk of his support simply came from Republican voters. According to the same exit poll, 90 per cent of voting Republicans chose Trump and 89 per cent of Democrats went for Clinton. Trump became president because he was the Republican candidate for president.

‘… The conflating of the subset with the Trump voting whole is common among the commentariat, and also, it seems, among would-be Trump emulators in other countries. Those who aim to capture the equivalent of “Trump voters” (in Australia, Pauline Hanson, Cory Bernardi and, perhaps, Mark Latham) don’t seem to grasp the fact that there’s only so much potential support in the “white working class” cohort. Or the fact that Trump won because he captured the leadership of a major party.’

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