Why the GOP Can’t Dislodge Donald Trump

Trump’s “base” covers a wide swathe of the GOP, not just the extremes. Plenty of “establishment” Republicans like him too.

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The prevailing wisdom about Donald Trump’s candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination is that voters backing the GOP front runner are, on the whole, white, older, less educated, and blue collar.

While this is true, less well-known is the fact that Trump also enjoys broad support from every wing of the Republican Party, not just the anti-establishment cohort or the far right. And this may explain Trump’s otherwise gravity-defying staying power in the contest for the GOP presidential nomination.

Research by Lincoln Park Strategies segments Republican primary voters into three distinct groups based on their political ideology and how they view it in relation to the ideology of Republicans in Congress. These three types of GOP primary voters are (1) Republicans who place themselves to the right of Republicans in Congress, (2) Republicans who place themselves in line with the GOP ideology, and (3) Republicans who view themselves to the left of the Republican Party.

Republicans more conservative than Republicans in Congress make up 42% of GOP primary voters, while middle-of-the-line Republicans make up 22%, and “left-leaning” Republicans make up 27%.

In our latest national poll, we found that Trump is indeed winning some of his highest levels of support among white voters (37%), non-college educated voters (37%), and voters over 55 years old (35%). But he is also consistently winning support among Republicans of every ideological stripe. Moreover, that support has grown across the board.

Four months ago, Trump was winning among all three types of primary voters. His level of support was 23% among Republicans who are to the right of the party, 23% among those in line with the party, and 25% among Republicans who are left of the party.
Today, not only is Trump running ahead of the other candidates among all three types of primary voters, his support has grown by thirteen points among the voters who are more conservative than the party and among those who place themselves in line with the GOP. When looking at the third group, those who are to the left of the party, Trump’s support has increased by six points as well.

As December comes to a close and Republican primaries and caucuses draw even closer, political consultants and pundits alike should keep in mind the complete image of who Trump’s supporters are. Although many pundits may want to segregate Trump supporters into a fringe wing of the GOP, the truth is that his support may be broader than the GOP establishment is currently willing to accept.

Stefan Hankin

Stefan Hankin is the President of Lincoln Park Strategies, a public opinion research firm based in Washington, D.C.