Backers of Trump, Sanders reshaping campaign

The crowd at Mr Sanders' presidential campaign rally and concert singing along with the band Vampire Weekend while awaiting his arrival at the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Saturday.
The crowd at Mr Sanders' presidential campaign rally and concert singing along with the band Vampire Weekend while awaiting his arrival at the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

DES MOINES (Iowa) • They are angry at a political system they see as rigged. They feel squeezed by immigration, or the power of big banks. They sense that America is heading in the wrong direction, but emphatically believe only their candidate has the strength and vision to change things.

The voters driving two of the more remarkable movements of this election cycle - for Mr Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders - share striking similarities. Both groups are heavily white, more male than female, and both are fuelled partly by people who, in interviews, express distrust of their parties and the other candidates, especially Mrs Hillary Clinton.

No matter how their preferred candidates fare in the Iowa caucuses today, the supporters of Mr Sanders and Mr Trump are reshaping the campaign.

In dozens of interviews at rallies in Iowa, and longer conversations in their homes or workplaces, supporters of both men spoke openly of their anxiety about the future.

Yet there was also palpable enthusiasm for their candidate and hopefulness about the future he represented. They believe that only their candidate can fix a broken system because he is not beholden to it; neither has a super PAC (or political action committee) for big donors to pour money into.

Anger has risen steadily since 2010 among both Democrats and Republicans, according to the poll.... and their anger appears to be one factor sweeping Mr Trump and Mr Sanders from the relative margins to the top of many polls.

The two movements have significant differences: Mr Trump attracts support across a wide spectrum of demographic groups, but is strongest among Americans without a college degree (eight of 10 Trump supporters do not have one) and those with lower incomes, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll in December.

On the Democrats side, Mr Sanders draws strong backing from younger voters and self-identified liberals, and 43 per cent of Mr Sanders backers are at least college graduates, the same survey showed.

Trump and Sanders voters are the likeliest among their parties to be "angry" at Washington, according to a Times/CBS News poll, with 52 per cent of Trump backers and 30 per cent of Sanders backers identifying that way.

Anger has risen steadily since 2010 among both Democrats and Republicans, according to the poll. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they are angry, and whites are more likely than African-Americans to say they are angry. But the rates for all are going up, and their anger appears to be one factor sweeping Mr Trump and Mr Sanders from the relative margins to the top of many polls.

The targets of their anger diverge. Mr Trump's supporters directed their wrath towards career politicians, unlawful immigrants, terrorists and people who they said were taking advantage of welfare. Mr Sanders' supporters assailed big banks and economic inequality.

Mr Sanders' supporters tended to blame the campaign finance system for Washington dysfunction; Mr Trump's supporters blamed the politicians who they said cared only about donations.

"Oh, heck, yeah, I'm angry," said Ms Savannah Granahan, 52, who plans to caucus for Mr Sanders and attended a campaign event for the first time, near her home in Fort Dodge. "This country isn't run by the government. It's run by the almighty dollar."

About 135km away, Ms Esther Toney, 71, a retired prison guard from Collins, returned from a Trump rally in Ames fired up.

"Oh, I'm very angry," said Ms Toney, who comes from a family of Democrats. "I'm extremely angry. We've got politicians who are just there for their own gain. They should be thinking about how they can make our lives better. And they don't. They vote on things to support their PACs or whoever gave them money."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2016, with the headline 'Backers of Trump, Sanders reshaping campaign'. Print Edition | Subscribe