Trump's Truckin' Base

Electoral prognosticators failed miserably last November. The smart set in the media establishment predicted a landslide win for Hillary Clinton. For an amusing review, here is a video montage of their smug certainty. On what did they base their certainty? Bogus polls oversampling Democrat voters? Or projection of their wishes and fantasies that Donald Trump would be smacked down in big league fashion? We all know how that turned out.

Just as the old quote predicted, “Wish in one hand, crap in the other, and see which fills up first.” Obviously political pundits needed more than their wishes to avoid looking like fools holding a handful of electoral poop after their predictions were turned upside down on November 8.

Here’s an idea that might help future electoral soothsaying. A recent USA Today article discussed the most popular cars and trucks in each of the 50 states. The map looked surprisingly like the 2016 electoral map. The top vehicles sold in each state in 2016, based on new car registrations, was compiled.

There was a mix of sedans, small SUVs and pickup trucks. The trucks included the Ford F-150, Toyota Tacoma, GMC Sierra 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500. Looking at the electoral map and vehicle map it’s clear that red states, won by Donald Trump, were predominantly pickup truck states whereas the blue states, won by Hillary Clinton, were mostly sedans or small SUVs.

The four western blue states of Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada were not truck states, instead favoring Honda Civic, Subaru Outback or Toyota RAV4. Most of New England, also electorally blue, has drivers choosing the Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.

Colorado, despite its rugged mountains and frontier chic is a blue state and its drivers chose the Subaru Outback, while surrounded by red-voting, Ford F-150 driving states, like on the electoral map. Illinois, electorally deep blue, chose the Honda CR-V.

Of course, there are a few exceptions. Minnesota, a blue state, likes pickup trucks. Michigan and Florida, both barely red electorally went with cars or small SUVs.

The correlation, however, is clearly there. At least by the electoral map. Here’s how the truck versus non-truck electoral map would look, red being pickup trucks, blue being non-trucks, meaning sedans and small SUVs. It looks remarkably like the actual electoral map above.

This is just observational, not scientific. The statisticians want p-values and statistical significance. I’m simply comparing the red and blue maps.

What are the politics of vehicles? The Washington Examiner describes the conventional view, “The Volvo-driving liberal and the redneck in a Chevy pickup are long-held stereotypes.” They go further, noting a correlation with blue-staters driving foreign cars and red-staters driving domestic brands. The USA Today article confirms this since all the pickup truck preferring states chose American brands, the only exception being blue state Hawaii and the Toyota Tacoma, perhaps reflecting Japanese influence on Hawaiian culture, or else comparative distance from Japan versus Detroit.

The Economist observed differences in how pickup drivers view government. “Pickup buyers dislike overt government nagging. They do not feel guilty about driving exceptionally large vehicles. They revere hard work, starting with their own.” The Root, an online magazine aimed at Blacks, brings obligatory race into the mix, “It feels as if racists love big trucks. Not just pickup trucks, but all trucks!”

Don’t forget the Confederate flag! USA Today didn’t when it tried to stereotype a Pennsylvania Trump voter, noting with shock, “He's young and he's educated. He doesn't own a pickup truck or a confederate flag.” Confirming the impression that Trump voters prefer pickups. With plenty of exceptions of course.

Look at the website for the Ford F-150, America’s top selling vehicle. A truck described with words such as durability, high-strength, capability, smart and power. Much the same as Trump voters feel about their President.

It’s no wonder the US truck map closely mirrors the red-blue electoral map. It’s one of many ways of stratifying voters. The fancy pants set at CNN or the Washington Post wouldn’t be caught dead in a pickup truck. Instead opting for their hybrid or electric cars, or something similar from Uber. Illustrating once again how out of touch the coastal elites are with the rest of the country, and the millions of Trump voters.

It’s funny that something as simple as vehicle choice is a better predictor of an election than expensive polls, focus groups and cable news show pontificating.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician and writer. Follow him on Facebook,  LinkedIn and Twitter.

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