Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Support NHPR with a year-end gift today for 2 chances to win a trip to Aruba!

Exit Polls Provide Insight Into Growing Coalition Of Donald Trump Supporters


And more now about who is voting for Donald Trump. He's drawing support from a surprisingly wide set of Republican voters. And his recent victories prove that his support is not defined by education levels. As NPR's Asma Khalid reports, Trump is doing well with voters who've attended college.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Donald Trump is fond of pointing out how much he's winning. Here he is after winning the Nevada caucuses last month.


DONALD TRUMP: We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.

KHALID: And Trump's not exaggerating. Depending on the state, he's won Republicans of all stripes. Sure, he still does much, much better among white, working-class voters - that is his trump card so to speak.

JARED FREEDMAN: I think that media, including NPR, like to portray Trump supporters as being predominantly disgruntled white Americans.

KHALID: Jared Freedman is a software engineer in Florida. Trump also does really well with highly-educated voters like him. Sheila O'Brien also has a college degree and works in marketing.

O'BRIEN: I speak to people of all walks of life, from your average, everyday, hourly workers to people that are, you know, CEOs of companies. And, you know, there's a wide array of people that like him.

KHALID: Something that I often hear from Trump supporters is a concern about their own economic circumstances. Freedman says he's been hurt by globalization and the use of H1B visas for highly-skilled tech workers.

FREEDMAN: And I've watched my wages go down to the point where actually I can't work for anybody anymore in order to maintain my quality of life. I have to have my own company.

KHALID: So if Trump supporters are not all blue-collar, then what is the defining feature of a Trump voter?

FREEDMAN: I think it's the difference between people who care about America and Americans and people who care about globalism.

KHALID: Some of Trump's supporters admit he might be inflammatory, but he doesn't mean it. And they think he'll moderate his message in a general election.

Richard DeNapoli is an attorney. He was a Jeb Bush supporter but now backs Trump. DeNapoli says part of Trump's appeal is that he's direct, not flowery.

RICHARD DENAPOLI: I wouldn't say that he's anti-intellectual. I think that he just has a way of speaking which breaks through a lot of the media noise, and it's very authentic.

KHALID: And he says the media media plays up Trump's provocative comments.

DENAPOLI: I don't think there's a racist bone in Donald Trump's body. I really don't think so.

KHALID: Regardless of education, the issue that unites Trump supporters is the belief that he'll use his business experience to clean up federal government. Here is Sheila O'Brien again.

O'BRIEN: In the condition that our country is in now, I think that Trump is the only one that's going to be able to solve the major problems that we have. I don't think anybody else will be able to do that because they're too involved in Washington.

KHALID: Education levels may have very little to do with Trump's appeal to voters, says Sam Abrams. He's a professor at Sarah Lawrence College and a researcher at the Hoover Institute. He studies political behavior and says there's only really one common trait among Trump supporters.

SAM ABRAMS: He's channeling something that we deal with in psychology all the time and that's this authoritarian nature of a large portion of the electorate. And this cuts across all of these various cleavages. It doesn't cut across nicely by socioeconomic status or religion or anything like that.

KHALID: Trump's broad coalition, which includes both college-educated and working-class voters, may make it hard for a Republican rival to stop him. But even as Trump is expanding his support, resistance to him is also growing. Last night's exit polls show large numbers of voters in Florida and Ohio say they'll consider a third-party candidate if Trump is the nominee. Asma Khalid, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.