A poll that asks about “people like you” shows why Americans are voting the way they are

Trump supporters are among the most disaffected US voters.
Trump supporters are among the most disaffected US voters.
Image: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
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The tumultuous 2016 presidential race has shown that US voters are deeply divided over the nation’s direction.

To figure out how we got here, Pew Research Center asked US voters to describe how life had changed for “people like them” over the past 50 years. And the results may reveal why voters, particularly Republicans, are lining up behind anti-establishment candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Disaffected Americans make up nearly half of all voters and two-thirds of GOP voters, the survey found, and most have rallied behind Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Three out of four Trump backers—sometimes described in the press as “angry white males” (paywall)—think that life has gotten worse for people like them, since the 1960s. They’re eager for a change, and Trump’s pledge to “make America great again” by taking on Washington resonates with those attitudes.

Nearly two-thirds of Cruz supporters similarly believe that life has gotten worse for people like them, while roughly half of people who back Ohio governor John Kasich share that sentiment.

Life looks rosier for voters on the other side of the aisle, the survey found. Half of Hillary Clinton’s supporters actually think life has gotten better for people like them over the last 50 years. Feelings are more mixed among Bernie Sanders backers, but still primarily positive: Forty-five precent of Sanders supporters think life has improved for people like them, while one-third believe things have gotten worse.

While many voters are unhappy with the way the nation has progressed in the last 50 years, their overall attitudes toward the federal government have remained fairly consistent throughout the 2016 election cycle, Pew found.

Twenty-two percent of registered voters surveyed said they were “angry” at the federal government, while 59% were “frustrated” and 17% were “basically content.” Those attitudes were similar to what Pew observed when it polled voters last fall.

Overall, 35% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters said they were angry at the government, as opposed to 10% Democrats and Democratic leaners. Broken down by candidate, Trump supporters are unsurprisingly the most likely to be angry with the federal government. Half of Trump backers surveyed said they were angry at the government, compared with 30% of Cruz supporters and 18% of those who back John Kasich.