Trump and Typology


Waaaayyyyy back I made use of the Pew Research Center’s US political typology to look at Dave Freer’s claims about Hugo bias. I was reminded of this by a completely different tracking poll that came out the other day. This other poll, from CBS News, was more specifically trump related but it also attempted to classify the US population into a number of political groupings.

The report is here:

The four groups run along a pro-Trump – anti-Trump axis.

  • Believers 22% are Trump’s core supporters. It’s a figure close to the percentage of Americans who voted for him but it may contain some non-voters and other groups may contain people who voted for Trump reluctantly.
  • Conditionals 22% are more equivocal in their support for Trump. Their support is contingent on Trump delivering on their core economic concerns.
  • Curious 21% are the ‘swayable’ opponents. Thye currently dislike or are wary of Trump but are open to being persuaded if Trump delivers.
  • Resisters 35% are the core opposition to Trump. Not necessarily Hillary Clinton voters but predominately Democrats.

Trump has thrown in some economic populism and nationalism into the political mix as well as anti-establishment rhetoric and as a consequence the older Pew typology might not run along quite the same axis as this CBS poll.

The Pew typology runs like this:

  • Steadfast conservatives 12% (13% w/o bystanders)
  • Business conservatives 10% (11% w/o bystanders)
  • Young outsiders 13% (11% w/o bystanders)
  • Hard-pressed sceptics 13% (14% w/o bystanders)
  • Next generation left 12% (13% w/o bystanders)
  • Faith and family left 15% (17% w/o bystanders)
  • Solid liberals 15% (17% w/o bystanders)
  • Bystanders 10% (people who don’t really engage in politics at all and hence don’t fit into this spectrum)

In terms of Trump’s campaigning, he may have gained some support from the groups Pew called ‘Young outsiders’ and ‘Hard-pressed sceptics’. In particular the ‘Hard-pressed sceptics’ group is further to the left of ‘Business conservatives’ on average in the Pew typology but ‘Business conservatives’ are much less inclined to isolationism than ‘Hard-pressed sceptics’ and more sympathetic towards immigrants.

In short, the ordering of some of Pew typology may not hold on a pro-Trump – anti-Trump axis. However, for the moment let’s assume it does and see where that takes us.

  • Believers 22%. Compared with Steadfast conservatives at 13%, suggests some extension of Trump support beyond the GOP base. However, if that extra approx 10% is from Business conservatives, on the whole, the current emphasis on immigration from the regime may actually weaken the Believers. On the other hand, if that additional support is more from the Hard-pressed sceptics group, anti-immigration policies may be shoring up that core. Either way, this core group can fall lower.
  • Conditionals 22%. Taken with the Believers group, the two groups together come to a similar but smaller figure as the total for the four right-leaning groups in the Pew typology (44% CBS, 52% Pew). That may mean nothing as both surveys have margins of errors within their methodology and different methodologies which will lead to some differences. The three right-leaning groups beyond Steadfast conservatives each have reasons to support Trump and to be wary of him. Business conservatives may be able to overlook the isolationism and anti-immigration moves if the net result is lower taxes and fewer regulations. The Hard-pressed may overlook the cosy ties with Wall Street if Trump is seen as taking action on immigration. However, the regime is vulnerable all round if it is perceived as being incompetent in delivering tangible benefits.
  • Curious 21% and Resisters 35%. Together the anti-trump side of the axis is bigger than left-side of the Pew axis. As with the pro-Trump figures, this may be due to other issues. However, it may be that anti-Trump sentiments spills over into the right-of-centre in US politics. Notably, the Resisters block is substantially bigger than the Steadfast left block in the Pew typology. It isn’t just a cognitive bias – the anti-Trump core is bigger and more varied than America’s left-wing core.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out further.



  1. Scurra

    I believe the famous Chinese curse is “may you live in interesting times.” It may well be interesting to see how this plays out, but the price may be quite high.

    (My own position is that the only reliable way as shown by history to sort out broken political and economic systems is to have a war or a revolution so that things can at least be reset for a couple of generations again. It’s just that I don’t really want to live through either of those, thank you very much. Which is, of course, a bit of a problem if you want to see things changed…)


  2. Mark

    The linked article is really interesting.
    Whether the types line up exactly with the Pew spectrum or not, it’s clear that Trump’s electoral coalition had to include a lot of “ordinary decent Republicans” (hiding somewhere in the Conditionals) who held their noses and voted for him. (I may be generous here in assuming they had qualms). This is interesting to me in light of how those voters may have shifted at the last minute.


    • JJ

      Mark: it’s clear that Trump’s electoral coalition had to include a lot of “ordinary decent Republicans”

      I dispute the idea that, after his overtly racist, misogynist, and homophobic campaign, anyone who voted for him was “decent”. Decent people don’t support that sort of platform, no matter how hard they try to hold their noses.

      And given that I haven’t seen any of these people, who insist that they are good and decent people despite having voted for Trump, calling him out on his racist, misogynist, and homophobic words and deeds since the election, I’d say that they’ve made it clear that they support those agendas no matter how much they try to pretend that they don’t.


      • Mark

        Oh, I wasn’t calling them that as a value judgement, I was just looking for a phrase to express the idea of bog-standard, fairly moderate conservatives (which would have probably been a better way to put it). They probably see themselves as ordinary Republicans just voting for the party candidate, but of course that’s their problem – not acknowledging that Trump was not just beyond the norm, but beyond the pale.
        You’re absolutely right that their failure to stand up for their own claimed values and condemn Trump when he breaches them is going to haunt them – I can see scenarios where the Republican party is ruined for a generation by Trump, although I can also see depressing ones where he makes this the new normal.


    • camestrosfelapton

      55.3% of voters voted in the election. Trump got 45.9% of that vote, which comes to 25.4% of voters voting for Trump. The ‘Believers’ are 22%…so its possible that few ‘Conditionals’ voted for Trump if we assume that the majority of Trump’s true believers voted. Having said that, I think it is possible that a substantial fraction of his true believers may not have voted for multiple reasons (e.g. some of them were people disaffected from politics and hence not registered to vote who may have ironically found it difficult to vote because of voter restrictions).

      Likewise, I assume the proportion of ‘Resisters’ who didn’t vote must be significant – which is frustrating. With turnouts so low in the US a straight vote of all ‘Believers’ versus all ‘Resisters’ would be a leftist landslide (assuming the other two groups stayed home and didn’t vote).


  3. lunarg

    Tangential point — remember, it matters significantly where you are, given the Electoral College. If you’ve soured on Trump, it matters very much if you live in a borderline state, or possibly even a light red state — but making a blue state more deeply blue changes the outcome not one whit.