Why are Trump Supporters Demonstrating Against the Economic Lockdowns?

We are starting to see more polarization of opinion about the lockdowns, with Republicans returning to their original skepticism about the dangers of the virus. If a Democrat were President, this would be unsurprising. But Trump is in office, and people tend to approve and trust government more when their favored presidential candidate is in power. So what’s going on? Here are some hypotheses. I’m not satisfied with most of them.

1. Trump supporters trust the government and public health officials less than non-Trump supporters, and so are less likely to believe in official recommendations. Problem: there’s lots of skepticism about public health in minority communities, especially in the black community (and with good reason in some cases). But we don’t see protests there.

2. Trump supporters are disproportionately bearing the economic costs of the lockdowns, given that they tend to hold jobs that do not require college degrees. Problem: this is also a feature of many minority communities, and minority communities are getting harder hit by fatalities than rural whites.

3. Trump supporters sense Trump’s displeasure with the lockdowns, and hypothesize that he’s being misled by experts. This is where all the #fireFauci stuff is coming from. In general, Trump is sending mixed messages, at best, and people in his tribe are responding accordingly. Problem: I’d expect more ambivalence in their views if this were true.

4. Trump supporters are deeply anti-elitist in general, moreso than people on the left, and since elites are supporting lockdowns, Trump supporters are opposing them. Problem: there are anti-elitist leftists. Heard of Berniebros?

5. Trump supporters are seeing others members of the red tribe protesting, but the protests are being driven by political groups looking to expose weaknesses in Democratic state governors and create a groundswell of support for GOP candidates. Trump supporters then infer that their group is generally skeptical of the lockdowns and concerned with the economic costs and act accordingly. Problem: But why are people so eager to agree with the protestors in the first place? The resentment seems genuine, not like astroturf.

Hypotheses I’m more satisfied with:

6. Conservative and libertarian intellectual and policy elites chafe more at the greatly expanded power of government and the restrictiveness of the lockdowns, and have been challenging a lot of the flawed models and data shaping elite opinion. This is trickling down to grassroots people on the right through right-wing media.


7. Distrust of Mass Media: Trump supporters disproportionately distrust mass media, which is to say they don’t really trust it at all. But non-Trump supporting anti-elitists, vaccine-skeptics, etc. tend to trust what the mass media tells them. Since mass media is largely conveying a pro-lockdown message, Trump supporters are inclined to disbelieve them or even believe the opposite.

Anything I’m missing?


  • Christopher Aaron Simpson Posted April 29, 2020 10:37 am

    Trump supporters want Trump to be reelected and believe reopening the economy as soon as possible will allow for greater economic recovery prior to the election thereby improving his reelection chances.

  • rory macdonald Posted May 4, 2020 8:26 pm

    In my opinion Trump supporters aren’t united by a particular strong or well-thought out political philosophy, instead Trump has a knack for connecting with a particular personality type. For lack of a better term, they are people who see themselves as underdogs, who value independence.
    Trump supports come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They can be found among all socio-econominic classes. Anecdotally, many of the biggest Trump fans that I know are small business owners. Rather than being unified under a particular creed, they identify with Trump himself. Trump has somehow created an image of himself as a no-nonsense straight shooting businessman, He galvanized his base by consistently being willing to directly blame someone for whatever issue he is dealing with at the moment, Whether the blame is deserved or not is not relevant to his supporters, it is so rare for a major politician to point the finger and pin a problem directly on a target that his supporters see it as “cutting through the bullshit” and being a tough guy willing to take a stand.

    This is why the anti-lockdown rallies are mini-Trump rallies, despite Trump holding arguably the most powerful office in out nation and having the unwavering backing of the Republican controlled senate. Despite being literally the one person powerful enough to end all lockdowns if he wanted, Trump has positioned himself as fighting an uphill battle against….who? I’m not sure exactly. Just literally anyone who is not a Trump supporter.
    I am not trying to say anything disparaging about the protestors here. My argument is that they are protesting because it gives them a feeling of purpose, of righteousness and it is a thrilling experience. There is not, in my opinion, a economic, political, sociological or philosophical reason behind these protests, I see it as more about emotional fulfillment.

  • Mark Johnson Posted May 8, 2020 12:43 am

    Hypotheses 6 and 7 for sure.

    I’m not that big on Trump personally but I am a conservative and a Christian (Catholic to be exact).

    First, I don’t trust the mass media, and the MM is in lockstep on the lockdowns. That makes me suspicious.

    I’m not that worried about the restrictive power of government, except insofar as I think they’re risking economic catastrophe. I have seen challenges to the data and I find them convincing, at least to the extent that I think they deserve a wider hearing. But from my perspective, everything and everyone that challenges the MM consensus is shouted down, and again I find that suspicious. Not all conservatives are in favor of ending the lockdowns, but it seems that all liberals are in favor of continuing them. This to me indicates closed ranks and closedmindedness, i.e. a determination to politicise the issue. And again when the major social media outlets clamp down on dissent on this issue, this only feeds the skepticism.

    Aside from that, I think the lockdowns are an overreaction.

    “More than 150,000 Americans died from alcohol and drug-induced fatalities and suicide in 2017. Nearly a third — 47,173 — were suicides.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/07/us/deaths-drugs-suicide-record.html)

    I don’t recall us spending $2 trillion and going into lockdown to try to limit deaths by drugs and suicide, not to mention car accidents in 2017. Do you? Oh, and 80,000 people died from flu that year too (2017-18 flu season), yet I don’t recall a single day of lockdown and schools were open year-round.

    So I’m skeptical. Liberals used to be skeptical once, I remember that from when I was young (and liberal). Remember “Question Authority?” My how the tables have turned.

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