Trump voters’ sense that they occupy an increasingly tenuous place in the nation has ebbed as quickly as Clinton voters’ faith in the progress they’ve made, a new survey finds
One of the starkest fault lines last year between voters who supported Donald Trump and those who backed his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton lay in their answers to a question that wasn’t explicitly political: whether they felt life had gotten better or worse for “people like them” in the last 50 years.
By a 70-point margin, Trump supporters said that life had gotten worse, not better, according to a Pew Research survey in August. By a 40-point margin, Clinton supporters said it had improved.
The gap between each candidate’s backers was wider than the divides along a host of other demographics, including gender, race, age and education.
Since then, of course, the political situation in the United States has changed. But was Trump’s unexpected win enough to reverse what seemed to be a deeply ingrained sense of disenfranchisement among his base or to wipe out the sense of progress felt by many Clinton voters?
In a May HuffPost/YouGov survey, the difference between the two camps has dissipated, leaving neither group especially optimistic.
Trump voters are now evenly split between saying that life in America has gotten better for people like them and that it’s gotten worse. Clinton voters say, by a 14-point margin, that it has worsened.
Because the HuffPost/YouGov and Pew surveys come from different pollsters and use different methodologies, they’re not directly comparable, but the difference between the two is nonetheless striking.
In the run-up to the election, the gap between Clinton and Trump supporters suggested the two groups held profoundly different beliefs about their place in the country. The dramatic shift since suggests that people’s perceptions about the trajectory of their lives ― or at least the answers they give to pollsters who ask about it ― are deeply dependent on the current political situation.
There are some demographic differences between the Trump voters who still think that people like them are on the losing end of history and those with a newly optimistic perspective. Trump voters with a college degree are 15 points likelier than those without one to say that people like them are better off now. Income also plays a role, with those in households making $50,000 or more annually 13 points likelier than those in lower-income households to see an improvement.
The newly dispirited Clinton voters and those who still believe they’re on an upward trajectory split along somewhat different lines. Education matters on that side of the aisle as well, with college graduates 13 points likelier to say things are better than do non-college graduates, and those in lower-income households feel the sting more than those with higher incomes. But there’s also a gender divide, with men 12 points likelier than women to say things are now better.
“People like you” is a broad category. Pew Research’s Jocelyn Kiley explained last year that the vagueness allows voters to decide which of the many demographic categories they fall into defines them the most.
The HuffPost/YouGov survey, however, also asked Americans whether things had improved or worsened for several specific racial and educational groups in the past 50 years.
Overall, the public says by a 7-point margin that life is worse, rather than better, for white Americans; by a 31-point margin that things are worse for those without a college degree; and by an 11-point margin that things have worsened for college graduates as well.
The public says by a 29-point margin that things have improved for black Americans. That enthusiasm, however, is mostly driven by white Americans: 60 percent of white Americans say that life for black Americans has improved, but just a quarter of black Americans say the same.
Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted May 9-10 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.