What Are Voters Angry About?

Sep 18, 2016 by

During this long and bizarre campaign season we have been repeatedly told that voters are really angry, that they have no trust in government and want to throw the bums out. This was the anti-establishment year and the collective national mood favored outsiders.

Political pundits and the news media lazily told us voters were angry but didn’t tell us why they were angry.

Is one party angrier than the other? Are they angry over gridlock or over too many changes they don’t like? Is their anger based on the economy, national security, inequality? Is their anger their own or was it generated for political gain?

The truth is some voters aren’t angry at all and those who are are angry for different reasons and to varying degrees. Some voters aren’t sure exactly why they’re angry but are sure they’re supposed to be.

Voters are frustrated and disappointed in their elected officials. Many feel their voices aren’t heard. Some are disgusted with their party while others are very loyal to a party and seldom vote for candidates outside their party.

Democratic voters seem to be more issue-oriented and fact-based. If they disagree with their party nominee on key issues, they might choose not to vote. They care more about the environment, renewable energy, criminal justice reform, universal health care and economic inequality.

Tolerant on social issues, they support gay rights, immigration, racial equality and women’s reproductive rights. They are harder to motivate with emotional pleas but respond better to social or economic equality than to fear.

Republican voters seem to choose candidates based more on their personalities and images. They’re much more loyal to party and will likely vote for a candidate they dislike. They consider other Republicans traitors if they don’t support the nominee.

They’re moved less by facts than emotions and respond strongly to fear and anger. They are less tolerant of other views and defend their hardline stances as being an adherence to principle. Issues related to emotions—safety, security and patriotism—excite the base. Their positions on social issues are based on their religious views and they are less accepting of different views, cultures or lifestyles.

Most voters do have a negative view of how government is functioning but they are not necessarily angry.

There’s a group of voters that make up a vocal minority. They want to push their issues through Congress without having to compromise. This group primarily consists of those ideologically on the far right. They’re angry that Republican leaders haven’t pushed their agenda. They prefer gridlock to compromise and would rather shut down government than accept policy that is not ideologically pure or looks like a win for either the Republican establishment or the Democrats. They made up the core of Ted Cruz supporters but gravitated to Donald Trump.

Many voters are frustrated that members of the two major parties can’t work together. They’re appalled by the dysfunction and are against gridlock. They want leaders who can get things done and who put country before party.

Some believe experience is important, compromise and negotiation are key and that it’s the newer, more radical members creating the friction. These voters—like me—tend to favor proven leaders like Gov. John Kasich or Jeb Bush on the Republican side and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket.

Others believe the system is corrupt, the so-called establishment is the problem and we need outsiders to take over. While advocating change, they are still pragmatic and want bipartisan consensus.

Some voters on the left believe our policies have drastically favored the wealthy and have led to greater income inequality. They resent the power and influence of the politically connected and view the election process as corrupt and rigged. They want radical change but want to accomplish their objectives cooperatively, not by shutting down the government. These were the Bernie Sanders supporters.

Was this “angry voter” factor overhyped from the beginning or has it diminished over time?

Polls show that Democrats have greater confidence in government than Republicans. Perhaps it’s because a Democrat is in the White House. The polls also show that only four percent of Americans have confidence in Congress.

President Obama is faring better—enjoying his highest approval rating at 58 percent. And the economic news has been positive. The median household income increased 5.2 percent—the largest one-year rise in decades. Incomes increased, poverty declined and more Americans had health insurance. Republicans downplay the economic recovery while Democrats celebrate it.

Perhaps that better explains why Republicans chose an outsider while Democrats nominated an insider.



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