Columnist: Are half of Donald Trump’s supporters “deplorable”?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hillary Clinton made the case that “half” of Donald Trump supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables,” wrote Chris Weigant in an article posted in the Huffington Post. But is that the case?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines deplorable as “very bad in a way that causes shock, fear or disgust,” and “deserving censure or contempt.”

Writing in the New York Times earlier this year, Lynn Vavreck reported the following: “Exit poll data from the South Carolina primary revealed that nearly half the Republicans who turned out on Saturday wanted undocumented immigrants to be deported immediately. Donald Trump won 47 percent of those voters.”

Vavreck also claimed the following: “Mr. Trump’s support among those who say they support a temporary ban on Muslim entry into the United States – a notion Mr. Trump first advanced in early December – is significant. He won more than twice as many supporters of the ban in South Carolina as any other candidate.”

More results from Public Policy Polling and a YouGov/Economist poll revealed that among all Republican voters, Trump did better among those who wanted the South to win the Civil War, wanted to keep flying the Confederate flag, agreed with the internment of the Japanese during World War II, ban gays and lesbians from entering the United States, disagreed with the Emancipation Proclamation, and the order to desegregate the military, or believe whites are the superior race.

Does that mean half of Trump’s supporters are “deplorable” or hold such attitudes? Not quite.

First of all, in each of these polls, you do find Trump supporters agreeing with these views more than supporters of other candidates, like Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Marco Rubio.

But these views are only held by a minority of Trump supporters. For example, barely more than a third think that the South should have won the Civil War. Only 16 percent think whites are a superior race. More than two-thirds of Trump supporters agree with the Emancipation Proclamation.

David Mastio of the USA Today dismisses some of the results, noting that some groups also had individuals who held these views — that may be considered “deplorable” today — and it’s not just Trump supporters.

The political mythbusting site “” only partially agreed with the results.

“It remained true Trump carried the largest share of disapprovers of the ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ question, but that effect of that statistical ‘brush stroke’ appeared less broad on the larger canvas of a diverse American electorate motivated by a number of factors,” the group wrote.

And while Trump may have won “every South Carolina delegate,” as many reported, that’s because the Republican primary was winner take all. Trump won just under a third of all votes cast in the South Carolina GOP primary, but it was enough to beat a crowded field in the key election of the nomination process. This is why many Republicans are unhappy with their party’s choice of nominee.

Rather than argue whether half, a third or 16 percent of Trump supporters hold such views, it would be better for Clinton to state her views on such issues clearly, and perhaps map out a strategy for reducing discrimination and increasing equality of opportunity, something thankfully supported by wide margins of the American population.

By John A. Tures

Contributing columnist

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College. He may be reached at