Today's New York Times carries an analysis by Thomas Edsall of the meaning of the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Finally, we have something which looks like science.
Some have suggested a Trump-Sanders ticket, recognizing there are voters who say they are trying to decide between voting for one or the other. But, as Edsall demonstrates, while there are some shared attractions between the two, there are more important differences.
Edsall cites a very cleverly constructed Cato Institute study (Emily Ekins and Jonathan Haidt) in which the investigators asked voters questions designed to address certain values: "Care" and "Proportionality" and "Authority" and "Liberty." These are the values which the citizen already has internalized and they are almost like pre set, conditioned neurons which fire off when they listen to Trump or Sanders speak.
Below is a chart from that study, which doesn't quite fit my template, but it's so good, it's worth the unsightliness:
What Edsall concludes is while Trumpees and Sanders supporters share a desire for being left alone by the government, they differ in many more important ways.
What really struck me was the question on "proportionality" by which attitudes toward who deserves rewards in our society are measured. "People who produce more should be rewarded more than those who just try hard."
So, when Bernie Sanders says, "Nobody who works two jobs should live in poverty in America today," that resonates with Bernie supporters but it rings alarm bells with the guys who will vote for Trump.
The Trump voter says, "Well, if you are working flipping burgers at McDonald's and then working a second job cleaning offices, you maybe be trying hard, but you don't deserve more than I do. I got my license to drive my long haul truck. My brother passed his exams to be an electrician. We had to work hard to get to a position where we could do work to be productive and make money. The hamburger flipper got his girlfriend pregnant in high school, did drugs, never finished high school. Why should I pay to support him?"
This also accounts for the different directions you see in the "empathy" question: The Trump supporter resents working hard and having to hand over his money to the government which turns around and gives it to people he considers undeserving.
There is another wonderful and separate study, in which people are asked to play the board game, "Monopoly" and one subject is given twice as much money as his opponent and he gets to roll two dice, while his opponent can roll only one, so the advantaged subject moves around the board much faster and has money to buy more property. After the advantage player vanquishes the disadvantaged player, he is interviewed and the advantage subjects almost always attribute their success to their own superiority, their own crafty judgments and bets and they simply cannot not see the rigged game favored them. They embodied that "born on third base and thought they hit a triple" mentality.
Other characteristics of the Trumpee are revealed in the Cato Institute study: the Trumpee is more likely to embrace authority than the Sanders voter but not nearly as much as the evangelical Huckabee or Ted Cruz voters.
Millennials are famous for hating the idea of being controlled by authority figures and the question about personal freedom from authority rings the bell with Sanders voters second only to those who love Rand Paul, the ultimate candidate of those who want to be left alone.
How you get people to sit still long enough to answer these questions is another matter, but studies like these are actually worth something, as opposed to 95% of what I see and hear on the morning talk shows and listening to Joe Scarborough and the partisans who tell you what they believe and try to convince you this is what motivates people who like Trump. Fact is, Scarborough doesn't know anything.
But the folks who are out there with well designed questions and methodology which ensures representative sampling, they are learning things. These folks actually know something.