There’s a link between never having left your hometown and liking Donald Trump — especially if you’re white.
That’s according to the results of a new poll by PPRI. It found that 40 percent of likely voters who support Donald Trump live in the same town or community where they grew up, compared with only 29 percent of likely Clinton voters.
A full 71 percent of Clinton voters have left their hometowns, and of that group, almost 60 percent now live more than two hours away.
The correlation is especially strong for white voters — but it’s complicated by the role education (or lack thereof) plays in geographic mobility.
The connection is especially strong for white voters
If you only look at white voters, the correlation between never having left home and support for Trump is even stronger.
“Geographic mobility strongly influences the candidate preferences of white voters,” the poll found.
What does that mean exactly? Here’s what PPRI found:
- Fifty-seven percent of white voters who still lived in the town or community where they grew up support Trump. Only 31 percent support Clinton.
- When it comes to white voters who live within a two-hour drive from their hometown, Trump also has an advantage, with support from 50 percent versus 41 percent.
- But among white voters who live farther than two hours from their hometown, Clinton takes the lead over Trump (with 46 percent vs. 40 percent support, respectively).
“Trump wins by 9 points among white likely voters who live within two hours of their childhood home, but by a whopping 26 percent among whites who live in their hometown proper,” the Atlantic reported.
The polling didn’t appear to ask whether any other the hometown dwellers may have moved away for a time — say, for college — and then moved back.
A new voting bloc: “sheltered” white Americans?
“Whites who were born in their hometowns and never left are really strong Trump supporters,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI’s director of research. The reason, he speculated, is that “if you’re raised in a more culturally conservative area and you never leave, chances are that you’re going to be a bit more insular. I think among those kind of folks, there’s an appeal that Trump is harking back to.”
Others have floated the explanation that white voters who grew up in relatively racially and religiously segregated areas and haven’t left are less likely to have encountered the types of Americans most closely implicated by Trump’s most discriminatory policy proposals and infamous bigotry-based statements (like his comments about Mexicans as rapists, considering Muslims to be threats to national security, and asserting that black Americans are living in “hell”).
“One theory would suggest his supporters are sheltered: They haven’t encountered the world beyond what they knew growing up, and their support for Trump is potentially rooted in prejudice,” the Atlantic’s Andrew McGill wrote in an analysis of the study results. “You could also say these people are more in touch with their communities and are willing to dismiss Trump’s more incendiary remarks because he speaks to their news and those of their neighbors. Or both could be true. Either way, it’s a telling correlation.”
Or maybe it’s just that people who aren’t educated are less likely to move
One important piece of information could help explain the results: PPRI mentions in its report on the poll results that there are major differences in education levels between white people who live in their hometowns and those who live more than a two-hour drive away. Fifty-three percent of those who stayed put have a high school education or less, compared with 29 percent of those who moved farther away.
It’s already been established that there’s a connection between less education and conservatism as well as support for Trump specifically.
As the Pew Research Center reported in April, “Highly educated adults — particularly those who have attended graduate school — are far more likely than those with less education to take predominantly liberal positions across a range of political values. And these differences have increased over the past two decades.”
A Bloomberg Politics national poll released in August found that those with the fewest years of education are far more likely to support Donald Trump, while those who have had the most schooling favored Clinton.
“The presence or absence of a college degree is more predictive of the vote in this election than we’ve seen in past elections,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer.
It’s no wonder Trump declared after winning Nevada’s primary in February, “I love the poorly educated."
Whether it’s education or geographic mobility or a combination of the two, the study sheds additional light on the ongoing conversation about exactly what conditions inspire people’s enthusiasm for this unconventional candidate.