We knew all along that Donald Trump drew his strength from the white working class. We knew this from the patterns in the primaries. We knew this from the nonstop polling conducted over the past 18 months. We knew this from all of the campaign-trail dispatches showing his anti-trade, anti-elite message thrilling crowds in the heartland.
.. Tuesday proved that this demographic remains a powerful force in U.S. politics — and the president-elect has thoroughly charmed the group.
.. The specks of red — where Trump won counties that previously voted for Obama — dot the Rust Belt. And these counties all had something in common. They were dominated by whites without a bachelor’s degree.
.. Even after controlling for income levels, employment levels, population size and the foreign-born population in a given county, the more white people there were who lacked a four-year degree, the more likely Trump outperformed Romney in that county. Roughly speaking, if you took an average county and increased the portion of less-educated whites by 10 percentage points, you would boost Trump’s winning margin by about three percentage points.
.. But these places have been like this for a while. In fact, Trump’s victory doesn’t seem to be linked to any recent declines in people’s economic circumstances. The economy has been getting better over the past four years. Median incomes have risen. The unemployment rate has plummeted including in regions won by Trump:
.. for politics, the economy is a state of mind.
.. Gallup economist Jonathan Rothwell has pointed out, surveys show that Trump supporters are not necessarily poorer than average. It may be that many are probably doing pretty well, but they may see others in their neighborhood who are struggling and decide that the nation, as a whole, isn’t that great anymore.