How Donald Trump won the US presidential election

The New York tycoon delivered a message of quick-fix solutions that many found appealing 

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The Independent US

Davenport, Ohio. A freezing night. The Adler Theatre is packed with people who have come out - many through curiousity - to see a man they only know from reality television and the recent televised debates.

Eric Bowen, 53, a plumber, says he has changed his registration from independent to Republican after seeing Mr Trump on television. Eight years ago he voted in the general election for Barack Obama, but he had never before taken part in an Iowa caucus to choose a nominee. That week, he was backing Trump.

“We need a businessman,” he said. “I think a businessman can get things done.”

Virginia has seen mining jobs fall by almost 40 per cent in the last few years (Andrew Buncombe )

Two weeks later, at a university stadium in Plymouth, New Hampshire, a couple carrying a placard listened at Mr Trump talked about water-boarding terror suspects, how he had beaten Ted Cruz in the most recent debate, but most importantly about helping those who had fallen by the way side.

Toby and Wendy Shaw said they were tired listening to politicians promising to change things. “People are fed up with the lies,” said Mr Shaw. “How many years have we had these politicians? It’s time for someone with a backbone to stand up and do what needs to be done.”

Across the breadth and length of America, similar scenes have played out since the New York tycoon announced 18 months ago that he was running for the White House. There are some, white supremacists among them, who have been attracted by a message that has had times been racist and Islamaphobic. There are others, as with the Leave campaign in Britain’s Brexit debate, who wanted to tighten the border and restrict immigration.

Yet polling data, along with anecdotal interviews with dozens of Trump supporters suggest his major appeal has been his promise to offer a quick-fix solution to the economy. A total of 90 per cent of his supporters listed the economy as being very important to them when it comes to making their choice, according to a recent Pew poll.

Toby and Wendy Shaw said they believed only Mr Trump had the backbone to take action (Andrew Buncombe )

Polls have shown that Mr Trump has received strongest support from white male voters without college degrees, and he has targeted communities in states such as Ohio, Iowa, West Virginia and North Carolina. Frequently he has taken his message to former industrial strongholds such as Youngstown, Ohio, that over the past 20 years has witnessed economic devastation and population decline.

At a rally in a hangar at the city’s airport in March, Mr Trump told a rambling story about someone who let a poisonous snake into their house and was then surprised when it bit them - a reference to what he said was the threat of illegal immigrants.

Among those listening to Mr Trump speak was Haskell Westmoreland, 79, a military veteran and former steel worker. “I think he will do the right thing for America,” he told The Independent. “He is going to knock the hell out of Isis. He says he will build a wall, I believe he will.”

One notable finding from a Pew survey released in August was that Mr Trump’s supporters overwhelmingly believed that life in America was worse than it was 50 years ago “for people like them.” A total of 81 per cent of registered voters who support Mr Trump said life was gotten worse, with just 11 per cent who said it was better.

By comparison, 59 per cent of Hillary Clinton’s supporters said they believed life was better over the past 50 years, with 19 per cent saying it is worse, and 18 per cent seeing no change.

Mr Trump has made much of this longing for a purported golden age, when the manufacturing industry was strong and America had a more dominant place in the world. At one of his rallies in Indiana in May, where victory in the primary secured him the Republican nomination, his supporters had differing view on when that golden age was.

Nowhere voted more strongly for Mr Trump than Buchanan County (Andrew Buncombe )

But many spoke of the two terms of Ronald Reagan. Janet Logan: “The economy was good, the military was strong and America was looked up to,” she said. “Now we give it all away.”

Of course, this does not tell the entire picture of those who were drawn to Donald Trump. Last month, Vox reported that the tycoon’s supporters “were not the wretched of the earth”. It said that exit polling from the primaries found that Mr Trump’s voters made about as much as Ted Cruz voters, and significantly more than supporters of either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. A major study from Gallup's Jonathan Rothwell confirmed this. Trump support was correlated with higher, not lower, income, both among the population as a whole and among white people. Trump supporters were less likely to be unemployed or to have dropped out of the labour force, it claimed.

For an insight into who heard Mr Trump’s message the clearest, The Independent visited Grundy, Virginia, a town of around 1,000 tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains near the borders with Kentucky and West Virginia. Buchanan County, of which Grundy was the country seat, voted 69.7 per cent for Mr Trump during the primaries, his highest victory in the entire country.

The community once was a thriving heart of the mining industry. Now, those jobs have all but gone, to be replaced by low-paid work in Wal-Mart and fast-food restaurants.

Lonnie Looney, a former miner said he would be voting for Mr Trump as he believed he was the best chance the community had of returning to its glory days of well-paid work. He said: “Hillary Clinton should be in jail.”