Red voters in a blue sea, these Pennsporters remain all in for Trump

Red voters in a blue sea, these Pennsporters remain all in for Trump

Red voters in a blue sea, these Pennsporters remain all in for Trump

The woman on the front porch in Pennsport on Wednesday night rattled off a list of reasons she had voted for President Trump: She liked that he wasn’t a politician. She was tired of Washington gridlock. She was encouraged by his tough talk on sanctuary cities like Philadelphia. And she was pleased with the roaring pace of his first three weeks in office.

But she wouldn’t give a reporter her name. “I am afraid of reprisal,” she said. What kind of reprisal? A neighbor across the street, she said, had put a Trump sign outside his house during the election, and someone had ripped it up a few days later and thrown it into the street.

The Pennsport block where the woman lives is a curiosity in Ward 39, a staunchly blue swath of South Philadelphia that stretches from the Delaware River to Broad Street, from Mifflin Street to the Navy Yard.  In November, 62.3 percent of the ward voted for Hillary Clinton.

But the woman’s neighborhood, three square blocks at the north end of the ward, went all in for Trump. There, 80.8 percent of the vote was tallied for the GOP candidate.

I knocked on more than four dozen doors in this enclave this week, looking to speak to the voters of this red island in a sea of blue. The vast majority weren’t home or didn’t answer their doors. A few said their votes were private; others said they had voted for Clinton.

A dozen Trump supporters agreed to speak, ranging from the gung-ho — “I really admire the man. I wish people would just give him a chance,” said the woman on her front porch — to the more circumspect:

“I’m glad he’s doing what he said he would do,” said Catherine Myers, 83, who has lived in Pennsport her entire life and voted mostly for Democrats until last year. “But I think he’s impetuous, and that scares me. He should think before he speaks.”

Some said they had voted for Trump simply because they didn’t like Clinton — but had been impressed by the president’s first moves.

“If they ran anybody who wasn’t in Washington, I would have voted for them,” said Ken Pooler, a retired SEPTA police officer. “But [Trump’s] not a bad guy. He’s not the boogeyman. He’s just the president. We’ve had better and we’ve had worse.”

Many said they supported the executive orders on immigration — including a ban on travel from seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days, a 120-day suspension of the refugee program and an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. (A federal judge blocked parts of the ban last week, and an appellate court upheld the ruling Thursday night.)

But they had been confused by the protests it spurred in Philadelphia and around the country. 

“I don’t understand why they’re worried about people who aren’t here,” said Fran Donnelly, a retired longshoreman. “We have plenty of people here in America who are homeless or below the poverty line.”

 Most said their circle of friends and relatives had voted for Trump, but were surprised the neighborhood had swung so heavily in his favor.

 “For the last two years, in the office, in the street, it wasn’t okay [to talk about voting for Trump]. You’d be berated as a racist and a bigot, and I’m not,” said a salesman who asked to be quoted by only his first name, Matt. He came from a police family, he said, and had voted for Trump because he had pledged to respect law enforcement. “I think everyone hid their beliefs until the vote.”

Matt was referencing a familiar trope from the campaign season: the idea of the “shy Trump voter.” The theory went like this: Though Trump was trailing Clinton in the polls, some analysts believed his supporters were reluctant to talk about who they were voting for – inflating Clinton’s lead. Shy Trump supporters were supposedly shaken by widespread criticism of their candidate, and told pollsters they were supporting Clinton, and just didn’t speak to pollsters at all.

Political scientists are still studying whether the shy Trump voter was really out there. Several studies conducted before the election found no evidence that Trump voters were clamming up about their support. And Five Thirty Eight reported a week after the election that Trump had actually underperformed his polls in heavily blue states, where you’d expect his voters to be quieter about their decision.

“There’s been a lot of talk about it — lots of people study the notion that when people perceive that public opinion is against them, they don’t want to be up against it,”  said Yphtach Lelkes, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “But then again, there’s also people who say the polls weren’t really that wrong at the national level.”

But the theory is still kicking around. Politico reported earlier this week that its most recent poll, conducted online, was more favorable toward Trump than polls conducted via live phone interviews.                                                                        

“We do see all the time in surveys what we call social desirability bias — when people are reluctant to reveal an attitude that they view as stigmatized,” said Patrick Egan, a political science professor at New York University. “That happens less in surveys conducted on the Internet, which are relatively anonymous. But there’s no consistent story about one survey mode finding more support than the other, and by the end of the campaign, it was live phone interviews that were closer to the final result than Internet surveys.” 

Trump, for his part, called all negative opinion polls “fake news” earlier this week, and a few days later tweeted a screenshot of the Politico poll, which found 55 percent of voters supported the immigration ban.

 Trump voters in blue Pennsport might be more reticent about their support for the president, Egan said. “You get a similar kind of shy voter phenomenon whenever a minority is encased in a majority,” he said.

But those who spoke to a reporter said they were proud to have voted for Trump, and happy to talk about their support.

“I’m not for him as much as I was against Hillary,” said Denise Capotril. “But I’m not embarrassed to say I voted for Trump. And he won the election – that’s saying something.”

But even in the city’s reddest regions political fault lines still run deep – sometimes through the same house. 

“I did vote for Trump,” said a union worker, answering his door on McKean Street on Wednesday night.

“Yeah, because he’s an [expletive deleted]!” his wife yelled from the living room.

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Published at Mon, 13 Feb 2017 11:28:32 +0000

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