What do we know about those who voted for President Donald Trump?
Well, his supporters may not live as long as those who voted for Hillary Clinton.
The general life expectancy rate in the United States rose by about five years between 1980 and 2016, but that increase didn’t benefit all residents equally.
Some areas of the country saw no increase or even a decrease in life expectancy. According to a recent study out of Boston University, Trump voters were more likely to come from those areas.
Jacob Bor, a Boston University School of Public Health researcher, analyzed voting data from the 2008 and 2016 presidential elections as well as life expectancy rates on the county level.
“The figures are just so stark,” he said. “It really is that if life expectancy increased more than average, then by and large these counties were going for Hillary. If it increased less than average, or decreased, by in large those counties were going for Trump.”
Between 2008 and 2016, Republicans lost about 67,000 votes in the counties where the life expectancy gains were above average. In the counties where the life expectancy increased by only three years or less, Republicans gained 3.1 million more votes.
There’s irony here, Bor said, because the Republican party is less likely to invest in public policies like environmental regulation, occupational health and safety, health insurance for the poor.
“So what you see is see large parts of the country essentially voting for a candidate, and a party to be honest, that are proposing policies that are very likely to be detrimental to their health,” he said.
There may not be causation to the relationship, Bor admitted, and he doesn’t yet know why these counties voted in this way. It could be that people don’t know about the link between policy and health outcomes or even that they care about other issues more so than their own health.
This research doesn’t even tell us why people voted for Trump, Bor added, but “what it does tell us is that people who did vote for Trump are hurting, not just in the economic sense which people have talked about a lot, but also hurting in a real physical sense in terms of shortened life.”
The next step, he hopes, is that at a political party figures out how to address the health needs of this population, so that no one is left out of any health gains.