Alexis is a 59-year-old college graduate, unemployed and terminally ill. An African American from Philadelphia, she identifies as a Democrat and proudly cast her vote for Barack Obama in the last two presidential elections. But this year, she voted for Donald Trump.
Alexis’s story is not anomalous, but is the type seldom explored beyond a headline, and even more rarely heard first-hand. How much have we, the research community, really sought to understand her and other voters, on either side of the aisle?
Seeking understanding beneath the data points is what we at dscout, and our customers, aim to do everyday. So today we introduce you to a project we’re calling The Trump Diaries. We launched this longitudinal study on November 11 and put our primary skill set to work: getting closer to people and hearing their truths to build empathy and understanding. This is what we do. For whether you awoke November 9 with dread or delight, the election of Donald Trump was a watershed for this country.
The election itself was a watershed for research, as well. Polls, expert opinions and traditional research techniques have all been called into question. At dscout, we historically shy away from political research for obvious reasons. The Trump Diaries, however, is an opportunity to discover and seek understanding of people in ways we might not normally be privy to, on topics private, sensitive and controversial. We want to know Alexis—breaker of our expectations—and others, both like her and unlike her.
Good research aims to get beyond obvious stereotypes, to add context, to even discover something that might surprise you. After a few weeks of immersing ourselves in data, we are already struck by the nuance in each individual’s reasoning. People might have voted on wedge issues and along party lines, but their votes were also fueled by issues and events that often live in the margins. Their motivations, justifications, and dissociations are sometimes complex, often astute, and always interesting.
As a series, we expect The Trump Diaries to feature a variety of illuminating topics and collections—from those who break the mold like Alexis, to other topics as they emerge. Already we are seeing unexpected commonalities across voters, expressions of hope versus regret, and an emerging definition of “the lesser of two evils.”
We now introduce 6 voters who break the mold by challenging stereotypes of typical Trump or Clinton voters. In the days immediately following the election, we asked participants who they voted for, why, and how they were feeling. Using the dscout mobile phone app, they recorded their responses to open- and closed-ended questions with text and video feedback.
We note the extraordinary degree of discomfort in sharing one’s politics in this polarized environment. To respect our scouts' privacy, we have changed names and are sharing anonymized audio and transcripts, rather than the full video diary entries captured through dscout.
Alexis is a 59-year-old African-American college graduate from Philadelphia. She’s disabled, unemployed, low-income, and terminally ill. She identifies as a Democrat and cast her vote for Barack Obama in the last two presidential elections.
Alexis says she is concerned with paying her medical bills, jobs for people who don’t go to college, and “law and order” in urban areas.
She voted for Donald Trump in the general election.
I chose to vote for Trump instead of Hillary because the Democrats have had a lot of time to make a change; to curb the violence, to give people more opportunities, to make more jobs and to change their policy on taking jobs to other countries for cheaper labor. So, I decided to do something different this time.
And also, the media, when they came down on him so hard, I felt as though I was being told what to do. And I don't particularly like that, and that wasn't necessary. That was almost like propaganda. And that wasn’t necessary. So I decided to do something totally different this year and I'm glad I did. I think he'll make a change. I think something different will happen in this country. And it’s about time. And I feel it’s only fair.
Sofia is 48 years old and Latina. She has her high school diploma and works as an operations manager in Miami. She identifies as a Republican and voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
I voted for Donald Trump. And yes, I'm Latina, and you will say that's crazy. I believe that it took me a lot of years to become a citizen... For the people who are immigrants and they don't have their papers, and they don’t pay nothing to the government, no taxes, nothing to be here—they need to do something to legalize themselves like I did. That’s what I believe. I believe that this has to be change.
I'm tired of politicians, like in my country they just talk talk talk, but they don't do nothing. So I’m hoping for a better change. And a better future. I don't want to be racist, but I want some changes for the future for my kids.
Lucinda is 47 years old and white. She lives in rural Louisiana and has retired from her career as a nurse.
She says her vision is to live in a country that is not filled with anger or fueled by fear, that accepts every person despite race, gender, sexual orientation. She also says she wants America to be great in that it is "taken seriously and respected by countries."
She identifies as a Republican but voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries. In the general election, she voted for Trump.
Never been a big Hillary fan. However, I am pro-choice. I am pro-gay marriage. I am pro everything. I think that Trump kind of jumped the shark when he became anti-whatever, and I think he really did it to get the Republican nomination. But, I've never been a big Hillary fan, and when she became psycho Hillary during the debates and during pretty much the whole thing and didn't have a message. I mean and then the Bernie Sanders thing… I don't know what media to believe.
I actually voted for Trump, because we need some change. However I'm very concerned about Pence. So now I'm reading and talking to my friends and neighbors and we're all anxiously waiting to see how Pence is going to play out. Because he is not pro-much, very religious and blah-blah Falwell.
Jacob is a 28 year old white man who works as a software engineer in Chicago. He is an evangelical Christian and identifies as an independent.
His vision of America is as a place that welcomes diversity; works together across the political spectrum to serve the common good; promotes understanding between different cultures, classes, and religions; protects the poor, oppressed, and vulnerable; and "respects the dignity and worth of immigrants, refugees, women, and racial and sexual minorities."
He cast his vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primaries.
I voted for Hillary Clinton this election it was a pretty obvious choice for me of the two candidates. She was the only one who was qualified and had a plan for this country and one that was inclusive instead of being divisive. After Trump’s victory I was shocked. My emotions have ranged from scared to angry to embarrassed to scared for what his presidency might mean for minorities, for women, for immigrants, for refugees.
I’m angry that such a dishonest racist misogynistic unqualified man would be rewarded and especially embarrassed that 4 out of 5 white evangelical Christians voted for Trump. That's my demographic, and I thought it was obvious that everything about Trump's words actions and character are totally opposed to the Gospel and what the Bible teaches.
Noah is a 35-year-old white man with a college degree. He works as a software product manager in Wisconsin. Noah identifies as a Republican but voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primaries.
I actually consider myself a Republican, and I voted for Hillary Clinton. I just felt like she was more qualified had more to offer us as a nation as a whole and just a legitimate person. Having the election work out the way that it did, I'm not... I don't know... I'm not a fan of it, obviously, but I don't think it's, you know, as bad as everybody says. I mean, it's due in large part to people voting on party lines. I don't believe it had anything to do—had little to do—with the candidate. I think it's about policies. I think it's about Obamacare.
I think [Trump] is probably a terrible, terrible person. But do I think that he can lead? Maybe. I think he deserves a fair shot. And, if he can't do it, there's an election in four years, and people have got to stop complaining and get out and get other people out and change it.
David, 51, is Asian American, and a veteran with a graduate degree. He works as an operations manager in New York City. He has been part of the Veteran’s Parade on Fifth Avenue for 3 years, but didn’t go after this election, saying, “I could not believe that this country had elected a draft dodger with ties to the Russian government to be its next president. What the hell did me and my friends sacrifice for? I wish that I could just curl up into a ball in a corner. But I know we have to live our lives and keep on moving forward.”
David identifies as a Republican. He voted for Barack Obama in 2012, John Kasich in the 2016 presidential primaries, and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election.
I'm an Eisenhower Republican, and I think at the end of the day Hillary Rodham Clinton was a Republican in the Eisenhower vein. I voted for her. I voted for her, because she's a public servant who actually did her job. And you know, sometimes horrible stuff happens on your watch, but you've got to own up to it.
I also live in New York City, and I've also been firsthand witness to everything that Donald Trump has done in the last 40 years. And you know what, I wouldn't trust him with a 13-year-old and her lemonade stand, because I know that something horrible is going to happen to both of them. I've seen what he can do. I know what he's capable of doing. And I know that he's completely played this election for all it's worth and I am scared.