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Using a large-sample survey and statistics we are going to see if Trump and his supporters believe the wall is grounded where it matters most: in reality.

I actually never understood the term “Beltway Insider” until this election. As someone who came to work in politics from a different field, then getting involved Ron Paul in 2012 and then working in data science, I’ve always thought I was an outsider. Nope, turns out I’m very much an Beltway Insider. How do I know? If you’re in DC and you’re somewhat aligned with the Republican Party, chances are you won’t throw your support to Donald Trump. However, when I go back home to visit friends and family, good people who I have known most of my life, the Trump surge is real. The disparity between our world views is vast and I couldn’t understand how someone could support Donald Trump, politics aside.

There have been many cases examining Donald Trump supporters, with explanations ranging from lack of education to the appeal towards authoritarianism to the blowback of economic globalization to the surge of populism. Whatever their explanations are, it is important to keep in mind that various complex factors are at play and it is most likely that all of them help (and then some) help shape the rise of Trump today. We at 0ptimus decided to conduct research regarding Trump supporters.

Rather than focusing on voters’ demographics or large macroeconomic trends, I decided on looking at a very specific issue and one near and dear to my heart: the wall at the U.S./Mexico Border. Growing up in Texas, I have heard almost every argument for and against illegal immigration and building a border. I try to stay away from it because it’s a heated and complex issue with perspectives rooted in economics, national identity, and morality to which no one person has all the answers. Republicans have always had an obsession with building a wall, but Donald upped the ante: Mexico will pay for it.  Even former President Vincente Fox commented that Mexico won’t do so. With the illegal immigration population leveling off, there doesn’t seem to be a real incentive for Mexico to finance a wall. Despite all of this, Trump still touts his ability to coerce Mexico to pay for the wall and it drives his crowd wild.

I know I jumped on the wall bandwagon late, but its my personal beliefs that fairy tales don’t warrant a response (after all – it’ll only dignify it). But I decided to test this theory that his supporters only believe in Trump and not actually believe that a wall will be built and paid for by Mexico. In order to validate my claims, I surveyed Republican primary voters in Wisconsin and New York – two states with primaries coming up. I wanted to see if they really buy into this idea or if they’re cognizant of the political reality of his claims. Surprisingly, in our study, the results match up with the rhetoric, with a plurality of Trump supporters (44.3%) believing that the wall will be built and Mexico will pay for it. Of the respondents who believe that the wall will be built and paid for by Mexico, 69% are Trump supporters.

Figure 1: Percentage of WI Respondents’ stance on the wall, broken down by Candidate support

Again, Trump supporters strongly believe in their candidates’ ability to convince Mexico to pay for the cost. Cruz supporters are more realistic in their view in that they are willing to put a wall but have what I would call “more realistic” expectations regarding how to finance it. Kasich supporters, on the other hand, are the most pessimistic crowd with a plurality believing a wall won’t be built.  Looking across all candidates, a plurality believe that the wall will be built but the U.S. will have to finance it ourselves.

Figure 2: Number of WI Respondents’  stance on the wall, broken down by Candidate support

To go beyond descriptive statistics, I conducted a Chi Square Test of Independence to see if a respondent’s support for Mexico building and paying for a wall is associated with supporting Trump. With a p-value of nearly 0, there is essentially no chance that these results are random, indicating that one’s stance on the wall is associated with who he/she picked as their candidate.

Oddly enough, New York Republican primary voters buy into Trump’s wall rhetoric more than Wisconsin voters with nearly a majority (47.6%) believing that Mexico will pay for the wall.  Similar trends are seen when you look across all the candidates and the questions. 83.9% of the respondents who believe that the wall will be built and financed by Mexico are Trump supporters, slightly higher than Wisconsin.

Figure 3: Percentage of NY Respondents’  stance on the wall, broken down by Candidate support

Figure 4: Number of NY Respondents’  stance on the wall, broken down by Candidate support

It seems that New York Republicans really want a wall, despite who’s footing the bill (which seems interesting since they’re so far away from Mexico, but I’ll leave that for another time).  An exception would be a Kasich supporter – Kasich supporters don’t seem like to believe a wall will be built. Just like with Wisconsin, I conducted the same test to see if it was candidate support is indicative of your position on the wall and it turns out, unsurprisingly, that it is. Below is a summary for all of the positions regarding the wall issue broken down by candidate choice for both states.

PM_Graphs_Support for Building a Wall - Mexico Pays

Figure 5: Respondents believe a wall will be built and paid for by Mexico, broken down by candidate choice for NY and WI

Figure 6: Respondents who believe a wall will be built, but paid by US, broken down by candidate choice for NY and WI

Figure 6: Respondents who believe a wall will be built, but paid by US, broken down by candidate choice for NY and WI

Figure 7: Respondents who believe a wall will not be built, broken down by candidate choice for NY and WI

Figure 7: Respondents who believe a wall will not be built, broken down by candidate choice for NY and WI

 Figure 8: Respondents who believe Trump will not be President, broken down by candidate choice for NY and WI


Figure 8: Respondents who believe Trump will not be President, broken down by candidate choice for NY and WI

For “Beltway Insiders” like myself, it’s weird to see how people can believe the weird statements that Donald Trump makes. At first I thought people were just going along for the ride on the #TrumpTrain and maybe believing in his other positions.  It’s not that Trump supporters are going along with his rhetoric; they actually believe it.  Maybe next time when I return home to Texas and my friends and family accuse me of being a “Beltway Insider,” I shoot back with their belief for building a wall and having Mexico pay for it. I’m not sure who’s more delusional about reality, me or them. I love them, but bless their hearts.

Methodology: The analysis was conducted using 6,148 likely Wisconsin Republican primary voters and 14,234 likely New York Republican primary voters.  The basis for New York Survey and Wisconsin Survey. Likely voter is defined by voters who we have identified who voted in any of the last two Presidential Republican primaries. The chi-square test was conducted to assess whether candidate support and stance on the Mexico/America wall are associated with one another.  Full breakdown of survey methodology can be found here. 

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