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Donald and his voters

Romina Spina, WashingtonJuly 20, 2016

The stereotypical white, male, angry Americans are not the only ones voting for Donald Trump. His supporters include students, women and ethnic minorities. Romina Spina finds out why he appeals to them.

USA Trump Wählerin mit Kappe
Image: DW/M. Kolb

Donald Trump's formidable rise to become the Republican nominee left many onlookers scratching their heads in disbelief. How could this unlikely candidate galvanize voters across the nation?

At home and abroad, many have questioned the electorate's judgement. Polls and studies soon found that his core supporters were mostly white, male, less-educated and less affluent citizens.

But Trump's appeal has an extensive reach. In fact, it cuts through demographic boundaries to include even some of the least likely voters, such as students, women, African Americans, Latinos and Muslims.

Simple solutions

Dolores Newsuan is one of them. At first sight, she couldn't be more different than a typical Trump supporter. As a consultant, she passionately advocates for small businesses owned by women, Latinos and African Americans on Capitol Hill, working on access to capital and on a new tax strategy to help them thrive. A proud African-American herself, she has been politically active since her teenage years and identifies as a lifelong Republican.

These days, she is a member of the group "Women for Trump." And she isn't the only Trump supporter in her household - her husband, a Latino, is voting for him too.

"We gave the establishment Republicans time and money and votes, and they failed," Newsuan told DW. She now supports Trump mainly because she wants to see change in Washington and believes he's the only one capable of delivering what is "good for America."

That line of thinking runs through all types of voters from diverse backgrounds who are endorsing the 70-year-old business magnate. They say they're fed up with politicians who are only concerned about getting re-elected.

As a political outsider, Trump has moved swiftly to fill the perceived void. Less bound by rules and conventions, he quickly set himself apart from his competitors. And unlike a politician, he can offer quick fixes to some pressing problems. Most voters don't weigh the complexity of single issues when they consider candidates.

"So they like his 'common sense' solutions. People think that politicians make things complicated, and Trump is not," says Jason McDaniel, a political scientist who studies voting behavior at San Francisco State University. Both these factors have broadened Trump's appeal beyond his main support base, reaching small portions of the female, African American and Latino electorate among others, McDaniel told DW.

A survey by RAND, which follows voters' attitudes over time, concluded that Trump appealed especially to those who felt they didn't have a voice in government, researcher Michael Pollard said in an interview with DW.

Two figures Copyright: DW/R. Spina
Many voters say they're fed up with the Washington establishment and trust Trump to deliverImage: DW/R. Spina

His slogan - to make America great again and to put Americans first - resonates with supporters regardless of their backgrounds. The message struck a chord with Newsuan, as she told DW that it was "time for Americans to have their justice." She referred to those who had been left behind "in the ghetto [blacks], the trailer park [whites] and the barrio [Latinos]," who were born in the country and were there legally.

Necessary wall

Newsuan shrugs off Trump's most controversial remarks, which have alienated many voters from diverse backgrounds. Still, some other members of these groups remain unfazed by his comments or praise his willingness to speak his mind.

They also believe his plans to build a wall along the Southern border to Mexico or to ban non-American Muslims from entering the United States are necessary to keep the country safe. His uncompromising stance on national security and defense is appealing to them because it suggests strong leadership.

Asked if Trump was a racist, Francisco Semião denied it and blamed the media for trying to make him look bad. "He's not anti-Latino, he's just being sensible about immigration," he told DW. Being half Latino and half Portuguese, he has strong ties to both communities in his native Washington, DC. And while he can understand how Central Americans try to cross the border in search of a better life, he says that they are still breaking the law.

border region Copyright: DW/R. Spina
Despite Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric, many Latinos say they will vote for himImage: DW/R. Spina

Semião grew up poor, too, but eventually went to graduate school and today, at 46, makes a comfortable salary working in health care management. In many ways, he embodies the American Dream. Trump is his candidate of choice, though in 2008 he voted for Barack Obama and four years later for Mitt Romney. Among other things, he values the entrepreneur's experience in business and his understanding of the economy.

Lawyer Saba Ahmed also feels Donald Trump's background could help to overcome economic challenges. The softly-spoken 31-year old, who moved to Oregon from Pakistan as a young child, runs the Republican Muslim Coalition and is drumming up support to get the nominee elected instead of Hillary Clinton. She is critical of any policies that harm her fellow Muslims, but when asked about Trump's statements on both Muslims and women, she told DW that no candidate was perfect and that lately he had toned down his rhetoric.

Facing insults

At times, Trump supporters are the ones facing insults. Sarah Hagmayer, a college student from New Jersey, told DW that it takes courage to walk around wearing a Trump T-shirt, although verbal attacks have only strengthened her resolve to back him. With others, she leads a group that reaches out to fellow students on campuses across the country, encouraging them to support Trump.

Newsuan also said that supporters like her often get ridiculed, and while she could handle the attacks, there were many others who remained silent about their voting preferences. But they wouldn't change their minds, she said. "They are in the closest and they will come out and vote for Donald Trump."