Defying all expectations, Donald Trump is leading the race to become the Republican nominee for the US Presidential election, which will be held later this year. Considering how controversial his candidacy has been, just why is Donald Trump so popular?
Over the course this contest, Donald Trump has gained a reputation for adopting really controversial positions on governmental policy. Some of the most extreme include his ideas to build a “giant wall” on America’s border with Mexico and banning all Muslims from entering the US. Considering the overtly xenophobic overtones of these policies, traditional political wisdom suggests that Trump should have been drummed out of this contest ages ago.
But the majority of Republican base voters, the ones Trump needs to reach in order to clinch the Party’s nomination, agree with him. According to MSNBC, a US news outlet, 65% of New Hampshire Republican primary voters admitted they agreed with the Muslim ban. A higher number (73%) of Republican voters nationwide support the 2,000 mile border fence idea. Apparently, a hell of a lot of Republicans trust Donald Trump when he says that he will “make America great again.”
Money in politics
Now let’s turn to funding, which is usually a decisive factor in US elections. Due to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United ruling, which significantly loosened campaign finance law, Politico reports that roughly $7 billion was spent in the 2012 election. Barack Obama, who was re-elected President in this contest, significantly outspent his rival, Mitt Romney.
Trump has used his billions to self-fund his campaign, decrying the heavyweight donors that lifted Obama to victory in 2012. In terms of both Democrats and Republicans, he ranks 6th in the funding stakes. However, last year The New York Times wrote that 84% of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, believe that money has too much influence in politics. The Billionaire’s decision to self-fund his campaign is admired by many voters, on both sides of the political isle.
Now let’s look at likeability, perhaps the most important factor in Presidential contests. Explaining this concept, The Delco Times notes: “For the most part, Americans do not vote on policy, but personality. Using their litmus test of “which candidate would you rather share a beer with?” – in other words, to whom can you relate? – the one chosen almost always wins the election.”
On paper, Donald Trump is an extremely dislikeable candidate. Throughout the course of this campaign, he has made a number of radically controversial statements. For instance, of US Senator for Arizona John McCain’s time as a Prisoner of War (POW), he said: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured? I like people who weren’t captured.” Criticising someone for being a POW would usually sink even the strongest of candidate’s campaigns in the US, where military service is seen as something to be heralded, not scorned.
Yet The Huffington Post points out that “Donald Trump is one of the most popular candidates in Republican history… his likeability scores eclipse every other candidate.” The article suggests that it’s Trump’s manner, rather than the substance of his words, that make him so likeable to Republican base voters. His unfiltered statements would never be uttered by a career politician. But people are tired of career politicians, so Trump’s supposed ability to “say it how it is,” so to speak, makes him seem ordinary and relatable, like someone the average Joe might want to share a beer with.
Explaining the mystery
I haven’t raked over every factor which could be brought into this article – there are far too many to cover in one short blog post. However, I believe that the key issues I’ve pointed out here – Trump’s policies, position on money in politics and likeability, go some way towards explaining the mystery of his popularity. At the end of the day, strength is everything in politics. To avowed Trump supporters, he seems like the strongest candidate running to become the next US President.