Exclusive: The plight of working-class white Americans, as their jobs have disappeared and self-destructive behavior has shortened their lives, helps explain Donald Trump’s success, writes Jonathan Marshall.
By Jonathan Marshall
The shocking new report that U.S. life expectancy declined last year is not only a disturbing indicator of Americans’ troubled physical health — our expected lifespan now ranks only 31st in the world — but of our troubled political health as well.
Social scientists and a few number-crunching journalists have uncovered surprising geographic correlations between white voters’ propensity to support Donald Trump and rates of drug overdoses, suicide and morbid conditions like obesity, which are major contributors to the national decline in life expectancy. Some examples:
–A study published this December by sociologist Shannon Monnat at Penn State University, focusing on the industrial Midwest, Appalachia and New England, confirmed that Trump performed significantly better than Mitt Romney in counties with higher death rates from drugs, alcohol and suicide. In parts of the Midwest suffering from the worst death rates, Trump outperformed Romney by a remarkable 16.7 percent, more than double his edge in counties with lower mortality rates.
–Using county-level data from the University of Washington, The Economist found that rates of obesity, diabetes, heavy drinking, and lack of exercise were the single best predictor of the change in eligible voters who went Republican from 2012 to 2014, holding other factors like race, education, and income constant. According to its model, “if diabetes were just 7% less prevalent in Michigan, Mr. Trump would have gained 0.3 fewer percentage points there, enough to swing the state back to the Democrats. Similarly, if an additional 8% of people in Pennsylvania engaged in regular physical activity, and heavy drinking in Wisconsin were 5% lower, Mrs. Clinton would be set to enter the White House.”