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Column: Foretelling Trump and Sanders

A 2013 study of voter attitudes foreshadowed support


For The Daily Astorian

Published on March 22, 2016 12:01AM

Last changed on March 22, 2016 10:15AM

Adam Davis

Adam Davis

The Donald. We know the national story, but how about here in Oregon? It is a similar story. He is currently leading the pack in the Republican primary election (though not by much) and is viewed positively by a narrow majority of Republican voters and about a third of all Oregon voters.

And Bernie? He’s doing better than Trump with his party in Oregon. Among Democrats, he is viewed a little more positively than Hillary and is narrowly leading her in the Democratic primary election, although voters feel she will ultimately be the party’s nominee.

Readers of the 2013 Oregon Values and Beliefs Study should not be surprised by how well these unlikely candidates are doing with broad swaths of Oregon voters. (Go to to refresh your memory about this study.) The study may not have named names, but it essentially foretold three years ago Trump’s and Sanders’ current appeal to many Oregon voters. A quick refresher course not only illuminates their appeal to many Oregonians, but also reminds us how much Republicans and Democrats in Oregon differ in some of their core social values and beliefs, including those that touch on the economy. The numbers may also foretell the outcome of the November presidential election in Oregon when you consider the party registration numbers as of February for Republicans (649,731), Democrats (846,143), and non-affiliated/others (713,343) — depending, of course, on which groups mail in those ballots.

Both Trump and Sanders are tapping into the anger many voters feel toward government, politics, and the media by painting themselves as anti-establishment and their opponents as part of the status-quo responsible for what’s wrong with America. They are also singing the right tune about trade agreements sending U.S. jobs overseas. Beyond these general commonalities, however, the two candidates take different roads to connect with voters. And, as foretold in the 2013 study, what they’re saying is resonating big time. Check out these findings, now almost three years old.

For many Trump supporters

Society as a whole has become too soft and feminine.

Two-thirds (66%) of Oregon Republicans in 2013 agreed with this statement compared to 21% of Democrats and 37% of non-affiliated/others. America has to become harder and macho? Sounds, a little Trumpish, doesn’t it?

We’ve gone too far in pushing equal rights in this country.

About the same number (68%) of Oregon Republicans agreed with this statement. Democrats were at only 16% agreement and 81% disagreement. Non-affiliated/others were 37% agreement, 57% disagreement. Validating this finding for Republicans was the 74% agreement with the statement, “It seems like blacks, women, homosexuals and other groups don’t want equal rights, they want special rights just for them.” Perhaps this explains why there’s applause when Trump talks about women using words like bimbo, dog, and fat pig.

For many Sanders supporters

Our society would be better off if the distribution of wealth was more equal

Among Democrats, there was 83% agreement in 2013 with this statement, compared to 31% of Republicans, and 64% of Independents. A strong majority (63%) of all Oregonians agreed with the statement, with majorities in all geographic and demographic groups except ... you guessed it, party. Is that the sweet smell of socialism in the air?

Publicly funded health insurance for all citizens. Almost three quarters of Oregon Democrats (73%) felt this was important in 2013 compared to just one quarter of Republicans. Non-affiliated/others split the difference at 50%. Among all Oregonians, it was 53% to 27%, with the remaining neutral or not sure. It should not be a surprise then that Sanders’ support for increasing government spending to guarantee health care to all citizens as a right, and not a privilege, has legs with many Democratic primary voters three years later.

Trump and Sanders are not flashes in the pan. Similar to what we see at the national level, significant numbers of the party faithful here in Oregon support Trump’s and Sanders’ messages. That support has been waiting to be harnessed since 2013 and likely before then. But, there is something else. A look at the core values and beliefs underlying this support is revealing. It tells us a lot about Oregon voters and particularly, considering the voter registration numbers, how out of touch Republicans are with most Oregonians about key issues related to equity and the economy.

Adam Davis, who has been conducting opinion research in Oregon for more than 35 years, is a founding principal in DHM Research, a nonpartisan and independent firm in Portland and Washington, D.C. Visit

Both Trump and Sanders are tapping into the anger many voters feel toward government, politics, and the media by painting themselves as anti-establishment and their opponents as part of the status-quo responsible for what’s wrong with America.


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