Tina DeMedeiros, 53, of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, is a typical “Trump-or-bust” voter.
After casting her first presidential election ballot for Democrat Bill Clinton in her early 20s, Ms. DeMedeiros had been disconnected from anything related to politics.
Donald Trump became a notable exception.
Ms. DeMedeiros voted for him in 2016 and again in 2020. But she didn’t cast a ballot in 2018, nor in 2022; she said that most of the people she knows don’t vote regularly, either.
“I don’t really like politicians. But I like Donald Trump,” she told The Epoch Times. “I don’t look at him like a politician.”
Pollster Rich Baris calls these people Trump-or-bust voters—less-likely voters who tend to cast ballots only when they know the name “Donald J. Trump” will appear.
They now form a critical constituency that other analysts are beginning to acknowledge.
“Republicans cannot win without them,” Mr. Baris told The Epoch Times. “The math just isn’t there if they do not show up.”
Pro-Trump voters include many who had never voted before or rarely voted in the past, Mr. Baris said.
Many pollsters might label these people “unlikely” or “less-likely” voters and may discount their responses or weed them out, based on the assumption that they won’t cast ballots.
But Mr. Baris said that in the case of President Trump’s voters, that premise is flawed. He sees a pattern: These previously unmotivated, sporadic voters now seem to behave rather predictably.
The Trump-or-Bust phenomenon is evident among interviewees whom Mr. Baris’s Big Data Poll (BDP) surveyed this fall. Mr. Baris produced one of the few polls that correctly showed that then-candidate Donald Trump was poised to win in 2016. BDP has conducted polling in the past for The Epoch Times.
For example, BDP’s map shows a 38-year-old man from rural Shelby County, Ohio. He described himself as unmarried, childless, not religious, and working full-time for an annual salary of at least $50,000.
This man, Mr. Baris says, is a typical Trump-or-bust voter, like Ms. DeMedeiros.
She started following Donald Trump when she was 15. That’s when she made her first trip to New York and visited Trump Tower, piquing her curiosity about the real estate tycoon’s success. She started watching Mr. Trump on TV talk shows, such as Oprah Winfrey; she became a fan of his reality TV series “The Apprentice.”
Yet Ms. DeMedeiros was so politically unaware that she was stunned to learn Mr. Trump was seeking the presidency.
He declared his candidacy in June 2015, but she knew nothing about it until her husband mentioned Mr. Trump was going to debate Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton in September 2016. “I said, ‘Oh my God, he’s running for president?’” she recalled.
By then, Ms. Clinton had already declared that Donald Trump’s supporters could be lumped into “a basket of deplorables.” She said these people were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.”
Her comment ignited a backlash. And when Ms. DeMedeiros heard about it, she predicted, “He’s going to win.”
“Everyone thought I was crazy,” she said.
But she saw signs that waves of support were building for Mr. Trump, partly out of resentment toward Ms. Clinton. “People had signs out in front of their houses saying, ‘A Deplorable Lives Here,’” Ms. DeMedeiros said.
Intrigued, she started learning about the future president’s proposed policies; to her, they seemed to be based on “common sense.” She supports his tough-on-illegal immigration policies, his defense of Constitutional rights, and his plans to cut government bureaucracy.
She said President Trump has her support. Although she conceded that he may engage in too much name-calling, she said, “I like it when he goes after people who come after him.”
She said she’s used to that brash personality as a New Englander: “I like people who have fire inside of them.”
“And I think he’s done a lot for this country,” she said. “If I had his money, I don’t know that I'd keep going on while being under constant attack.”
Ms. DeMedeiros said that some wealthy Democrats in Cape Cod who were once anti-Trump now instead bad-mouth President Joe Biden’s economic policies. They want President Trump back in office, she said. To them, she says, “Welcome aboard!'”
Although Ms. DeMedeiros said she senses that President Trump is headed for a 2024 election win, she also said she remains concerned that Democrats will try to sabotage it.
Days after Ms. DeMedeiros expressed that worry to The Epoch Times, the left-leaning Colorado Supreme Court ruled President Trump ineligible for that state’s primary election ballot. The Colorado GOP has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.
Making Politics Relevant
McKayla Rose, 36, of Dallas, exemplifies another category of President Trump’s supporters: Those who were once disinterested in politics but became uber-engaged because of him. (To avoid reprisals, the married mother of two asked The Epoch Times to use her online pseudonym for this article.)
Concern for her children motivated her to “start paying attention” to politics, she said. That happened after Ms. Rose learned that schools “were trying to teach kids about homosexuality and ’trans’ this, ’trans’ that,” she said, referring to transgenderism.
Ms. Rose started to see the vital role that the U.S. president plays in guiding the nation’s policies and setting the tone for trends in American society. That realization motivated her to delve deeper.
She began listening directly to President Trump’s speeches and became convinced that many mainstream media reports mischaracterized him.
So, for the first time in her life, Ms. Rose, who was then in her early 30s, voted—for President Trump in the 2020 election. She said she agrees with his contention that the election was rigged or stolen and that she intends to vote for him again in 2024.
But unlike the Trump-or-bust voters, Ms. Rose said she did cast a ballot during the 2022 midterm elections. She now considers herself an informed, active member of the electorate.
Jeff Bloodworth, a professor of U.S. political history at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, said Ms. Rose and the Trump-or-bust voters strike him as “a very typical kind of person who has been brought into the political system by Donald Trump.”
Although President Trump’s critics say the drama surrounding him is exhausting, it has captured the attention of citizens who used to find politics painfully dull and irrelevant to their lives. The former president seems to have a knack for reaching those people, showing them how politics matter, and inspiring them to get involved, Mr. Bloodworth told The Epoch Times.
“He makes politics kind of understandable. And, oddly, some people believe he’s more relatable, even though he’s a billionaire from New York,” he said. “Trump has found a way to make politics interesting to a wider swath of the electorate.”
Mr. Bloodworth said he thinks many pollsters still need to figure out how to ferret out and fully gauge President Trump’s supporters.
The Pennsylvania Picture
Recent poll numbers for both President Trump and President Biden fit Mr. Bloodworth’s observations about the political climate in Pennsylvania.
Polls show that President Biden, who hails from Pennsylvania, is in danger of losing the state if current trends hold.
Mr. Baris’s BDP shows President Trump 3.5 percentage points ahead of the incumbent in the Keystone State.
Asked to comment on BDP’s Pennsylvania findings, Mr. Bloodworth said, “I guess I was most surprised by the urban numbers, especially in Philadelphia.”
In 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden won Philadelphia County by about 63 percentage points. That support level has dropped by 16 percentage points, according to BDP.
The poll detected a similar decline among President Biden’s supporters in Pittsburgh, where he won by about 20 percentage points in 2020. Now his Pittsburgh lead has shrunk to about 4 points, BDP found.
These findings mesh with other polls showing that nonwhite people’s support of the current president has been dropping; some Democrat strategists have acknowledged that these polling numbers constitute warning signals about President Biden’s reelection bid.
Simply put, the numbers show that “Biden is vulnerable,” Mr. Bloodworth said. “And I think even Joe Biden understands that.”
However, some of the incumbent president’s allies are discounting the importance of polling at this stage of the game.
Democrats, Others Urge Caution
Asked to comment on the recent downward trends in President Biden’s poll numbers, Washington-based Democrat strategist Matt Angle told The Epoch Times last month: “Horse race polls a year out are not predictive, and treating them like they are is dumb on the part of individuals and irresponsible on the part of journalists.”
Similarly, Mr. Baris told The Epoch Times: “People should remain skeptical of polling, educate themselves about it.”
They also need to remember that polling “was never intended to identify margins with pinpoint accuracy.” Instead, polling is intended to identify trends and record voter sentiments at a given moment in time; they’re snapshots recording the present, not crystal balls glimpsing the future.
Most polls contain “sampling errors” that can skew results, typically plus or minus 3 to 4 percentage points. Thus, a lead within those margins is not a comfortable one. And so far, most Biden-Trump poll results fall within that margin of error.
Mr. Angle said President Biden’s poll rankings are probably suffering in the face of “virulent opposition” from President Trump’s “ideologues” in right-wing news media.
Many recent reports are critical of President Biden’s handling of the economy, immigration issues, and foreign affairs, including the Israel–Hamas War. In addition, President Biden faces an impeachment inquiry over millions of dollars that allegedly flowed from foreigners into his relatives’ bank accounts. He has denied wrongdoing.
President Biden’s supporters say the influence-peddling scandal is small potatoes compared with the 91 criminal indictments lodged against President Trump. The allegations stem from his challenge of the 2020 election results along with his handling of business records and government records.
The former president has repeatedly stated that he did nothing wrong. He says he is the target of an unprecedented political witch hunt designed to damage his candidacy and interfere with the 2024 election.
He also has repeatedly touted his polling performance as an indicator that the American people see the criminal cases as “political persecution” and that they appreciated the work he did in the White House.
Assuming a Biden–Trump rematch, voters face a choice between two candidates who are both old, Mr. Angle said. President Trump is 77 and President Biden 81.
But of course, there are significant differences between the two men.
Mr. Angle said he considers President Trump “dangerously destructive,” dishonest, and a threat to American democracy.
President Trump and his supporters dismiss that characterization as a Democrat talking point. They retort that President Biden has stumbled over his words and his feet, signs that his age is affecting him and making him appear weak on the world stage. But President Trump, they say, remains quick-witted and seems resilient despite a demanding schedule of court appearances and campaign events.
Mr. Angle called President Biden “capable, accomplished, [and] patriotic,” even if he is “less than exciting.”
President Biden’s critics accuse him of failing to “put America first.” Under his watch, record-breaking numbers of illegal immigrants have flooded across the U.S.–Mexico border.