Asked to compare life now with life 50 years ago, the difference was even more stark. A majority of Clinton backers said life is better — powered in part by a majority of black respondents choosing that answer. Among Trump supporters, 81 percent said life for people like them was worse.
"People like you" is an interesting formulation. To some extent, the stereotype of a Trump supporter is accurate: They are more likely to be older than Clinton supporters and a lot more likely to be white and male. They are not much more likely to be wealthy — or, put another way, they're not much more likely to earn a lower income, either.
Those demographic and political differences result in interesting splits on how different groups view the country's top problems.
Pew's data suggests that a focus on the gap between rich and poor would be a good way for Trump to appeal to both nonwhite voters and supporters of Clinton, while not alienating his base. Black respondents, Clinton supporters and Trump supporters who make less than $50,0000 a year were much more likely to call that gap a very big problem. Black respondents were also more likely to say that race relations and crime were a big issue — though there wasn't much difference on those issues otherwise.
Trump backers are much more likely to call immigration, terrorism and the availability of good-paying jobs a big problem, immigration most of all. The split on immigration is the widest, with 66 percent of Trump backers calling it a very big problem vs. only 17 percent of Clinton backers.
It's very easy to launch down a well-worn path from these numbers: White Trump supporters are worried about immigration and the future of the country, wink, wink. But the pessimism is a bit broader than that, with Trump backers being more likely to say that the United States can't even fix the problems with which it is confronted.
Some of these attitudes are a function of opposition to the Obama administration and/or the candidacy of Trump. Since March, Republicans are slightly more likely to say that life has gotten worse for people like them, jumping from 66 percent who said that five months ago to 72 percent who say it now. How much of that is politics? How much of it is a change in circumstance?
The message Trump presented at the Republican convention was one that reinforced a sense of pessimism about the world around us — coupled with an argument that he was the person to offer the solution. For the most part, that speech was poorly received, except among the groups of people that already supported him. Trump seems to have tapped into and exacerbated a sense of pessimism among older white Americans.
The outstanding question for Trump over the immediate future is how he takes his existing base of support and expands it outward, if that's possible. As it stands, he seems to have wrung nearly every vote out of the population of voters that sees the longer-term future as something bleak.