Who will vote for Donald Trump in the 2024 US presidential election and why.
A coalition of grievance unites several diverse groups behind ex-President Donald J. Trump
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There is consensus in America on many issues. According to some of the latest data, 77% of Americans adults say that it is good that the US population is made up of many different races and ethnicities. Only 6% say it is bad. Some 71% of Americans say that climate change is harming people in the US. Some58% of Americans favour stricter gun laws. Same-sex marriage has the support of 71% of Americans, while 73% support laws to prohibit discrimination against transgender people in schools or the workplace. Some 85% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances and 61% disagreed with the US Supreme Court ruling, in 2022, that abortion was no longer a right under the US constitution.

However, a significant minority of Americans fiercely oppose one or several aspects of this ‘liberal’ consensus, which they believe to be the reason for their country’s ‘decline’. A coalition of grievance unites several diverse groups behind ex-President Donald J. Trump. That Trump has little in common with the various groups that support him means nothing. His speaks their language. He is a victim, like them, not of a ‘liberal’ but an ‘illiberal’ consensus that wants to silence them and take away their freedoms. A consensus that poses an existential threat to the American way of life, making it time, as Trump says, for them to take their country back and to make America great again.

Making Trump president, again

The groups supporting Trump have different, but sometimes overlapping, interests. Amongst Trump’s strongest supporters are white men who did not go to university. Over the last 40 years they have struggled as the industries they worked in have changed and their once well-paying jobs have either been shipped overseas or automated. The recognition and respect that their work gave them has gone. Trump, a rich man, has no knowledge of how these people live, but they agree with him why the country is no longer working. This group sees political correctness as a restriction on free speech and is most likely to believe anti-establishment conspiracy theories. They distrust the media and politicians, whose news and actions, seemingly, have no relevance to their lives.

White nationalists share the grievances of non-university educated whites about jobs and falling living standards. They believe that this is because other races are being favoured over white people. Some embrace the ‘great replacement theory’ – the idea that non-white immigration is part of a plot to ‘replace’ the political power and culture of white people in the US. This is, partly, a backlash to the election of America’s first black president, Barak Obama. Trump promoted the ‘birther’ movement, a conspiracy theory that claimed, falsely, that Obama was not a legitimate president because he was born in Kenya, not the US. Records show that Obama was born in Hawaii. This and Trump’s fierce opposition to immigrants who, he recently said, are ‘poisoning the blood of America’, along with his promises to close the US’s southern border, appeal strongly to white nationalists.

Linked to white nationalism is the belief of white Christian evangelicals that America is a ‘Christian’ country, chosen by God. In 2022, 63% of Americans’ identified as Christian and 24% of these as evangelical, a branch of the Protestant Church. White evangelicals do not accept the US constitution separates church and state. For them, America’s laws should follow the Bible, which they regard as the true word of God. They oppose LGBTQ+ rights and abortion, regarding them as sinful. America’s decline, as they see it, is God’s judgement.

White evangelicals do not support Trump for his Christian piety. Trump is a twice-divorced man whom the civil courts have found liable for fraud, defamation and sexual abuse. He also faces federal and state criminal charges for defrauding the US, mishandling classified documents and paying ‘hush-money’ to a porn star. When asked, Trump could not name a favourite Bible verse. But white evangelicals point to Trump appointing, when president, three judges to the US Supreme Court who voted to end a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion. Some white evangelicals reconcile Trump’s personal transgressions by portraying him as a flawed servant of God. They compare Trumpto King Cyrus, who although a Persian ruler, according to the Bible, fulfilled God’s plan by liberating the Jews from captivity in Babylon. Trump is not perfect, but for white evangelicals, he is part of God’s plan to save America.

Not only many poor, but also many rich people support Trump, including many billionaires and leaders of corporate America. When president, Trump made tax cuts worth around $1.5trn, some 75% of which went to the richest 10% of Americans. Corporate America also welcomes Trump’s plans for business deregulation, his scepticism about climate change and proposals to drill in the US for more oil. They see another Trump presidency as a chance to make money

That Trump’s business skills are good for the economy is a view shared, increasingly, by blacks and Hispanics. Despite Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric and support of white nationalists, they feel neglected by the Democratic party and believe that Trump will bring good jobs back to America. Many Hispanics, particularly those from Cuba and Venezuela, support Trump and the Republican party because they oppose the communism and socialism of their homelands. Many Hispanics are also Catholics and are socially conservative with reservations about abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. Many Hispanics also oppose and want to stop illegal and undocumented immigration into the US from Latin America, which, they believe undermines their status as people who followed the rules and entered the US legally.

Trump does not need most votes to win

Trump’s supporters may be a diverse coalition, but they are devoted to him. Court cases and negative stories about Trump, even if true, make no difference to them. They are convinced that the courts are against Trump, who, they believe, is protecting them from the ‘deep state’ that wants to destroy America. However, Trump’s support probably has a ceiling of around 35%of the vote.  Joe Biden, Trump’s likely Democrat opponent, will probably win the popular vote in this November’s presidential election. In 2020, Biden received seven million more votes than Trump. But US elections are not decided by the popular vote, but by the votes of each state in the electoral college.

Consequently, what matters is the size and distribution of Trump votes in the undecided ‘swing’ states of Arizona (with 11 electoral college votes), Georgia (16), Michigan (15), Nevada (6) Pennsylvania (15) and Wisconsin (10). If the other states vote as expected, then Trump will need 35 out of the 77 votes from the swing states. Biden will need 44.

In 2020, Biden won all six swing states, but narrowly. Just 45,000 votes for Trump, or 45,000 fewer for Biden across Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin, would make Trump president again. Such an outcome is a real possibility. Some independent voters may vote for Trump because they trust him more on the economy and immigration. Candidates from other parties, such as the Libertarians or Greens may take votes away from Biden. Some Democrats may not vote because they believe that Biden, at 82, is too old to be president. Alternatively, alienated by his antics, many who voted for Trump in 2020 may not do so again in 2024.

The cult of Donald Trump will make the 2024 US presidential election very close.

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