Why we should have seen the rise of Donald Trump coming, in 7 graphs

New Poll Shows 9 Out of 10 Trump Supports Feel Attacked
New Poll Shows 9 Out of 10 Trump Supports Feel Attacked

Republican front-runner Donald Trump is making headlines with his off-the-cuff campaign speeches, blunt attitude and often polarizing policy positions.

But Tamara Draut says his ideas are anything but original.

"He is billing himself, and people see him as, the authentic candidate," says Draut, vice president of policy and research at public policy organization Demos. "But, honestly, his whole candidacy is ripped straight from any polling you look at of white working-class voters."

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In her new book, "Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America," Draut argues that the trajectory of the working class has not been sustainable. But she also details a newly emerging working class – one largely made up of people of color and women who hold service jobs – that is overtaking what traditionally has been a manufacturing-based sector dominated by white males.

It's precisely the decline of that traditional working class – along with the frustration and distrust accompanying its demise, which largely have gone ignored by the Republican Party elite – that helped provide an opening for Trump 2016 and its populist-driven agenda.

See images of Trump through the years:

Below, we take a look at some of the evidence showing the decline of the working class – defined by Draut as Americans without a college education – along with the factors and fears Trump has capitalized on during his rise to the top of the Republican Party pack.

In short, here's why we all should have seen this coming.

Economic Strife

The wages of those in the working class have dropped over the past decades, which – combined with the increasing costs associated with housing and education – have put the American dream increasingly out of reach for many. For men in the working class specifically, the median hourly wage declined by $4.47 (in 2013 dollars) between 1980 and 2012, according to Draut's analysis of Labor Department data.

Many members of the working class also have been trapped in part-time work, needing to hold down several jobs just to make ends meet. Even worse, advocates say wage theft – in which employers don't pay overtime, steal tips or skimp on salary in some other way – is all too common, meaning workers often need to be suspicious of the very companies they are depending on. One poll found that nearly 90 percent of fast-food workers had experienced wage theft.

As evidenced by fewer benefits, unpredictable schedules and frequent safety violations, Draut says today's working class isn't provided the same respect as the working class of her father's day was. And despite a slow but steady economic recovery in the U.S., the working class – which was hit hard by the Great Recession – still has less economic confidence than a year ago, according to Gallup.

The New Populists

In a report on the white working class called "Beyond Guns and God," the Public Religion Research Institute explored the populism among the white working class. The 2012 analysis and accompanying survey data showed that 70 percent of white working-class Americans believed the economic system favored the wealthy, and a majority said that one of the biggest problems facing the U.S. was that not everyone gets an equal chance in life.

Many also believed that capitalism and the free market system were at odds with Christian values. And nearly 8 in 10 blamed the nation's economic problems either somewhat or very much on corporations moving jobs overseas.

Meanwhile, just 1 in 20 white working-class Americans said either abortion or same-sex marriage was the most important issue to their vote.

Enter Trump. The billionaire real estate mogul's campaign has largely set aside the common refrains of social conservatives and the Republican Party of recent decades. Even the firestorm of late over his illegal-abortion-should-be-punished comments stemmed from being pressed while on the hot seat during a televised town hall, and weren't the result of his standard remarks on the stump.

Instead, Trump has concentrated on a populist-driven agenda, trying to convince those looking for work and wage solutions that he can bring jobs back from beyond U.S. borders and keep out immigrants, whom many in the working class believe are taking jobs from them.

But it's not as if the growing disconnect between a wide swath of potential Republican voters and the messaging of the Republican Party went unnoticed by the party itself. In a post-mortem report released after the 2012 election, GOP leaders called for the party to be "the champion of those who seek to climb the economic ladder of life."

"We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare," the report said. "We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years."

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Yet, combined with little economic progress for the working class and little leadership in Washington from Republicans on these issues, what's been a crucial Trump voting bloc remained angry and up for grabs. According to polling from the Pew Research Center, Trump supporters are more likely than backers of Sen. Ted Cruz or Gov. John Kasich to say that life for people like them in America is worse than it was 50 years ago. They're also far more likely to be angry at the federal government.

Skin-Color Suspicions

The U.S. is more diverse than ever, and only getting more so. Immigration has increased in recent decades, especially from Mexico , although the number of people trying to enter the U.S. illegally from there has decreased of late.

Many white working-class Americans have seen their own declining economic prospects as going hand-in-hand with this increasing diversity. In fact, according to the PRRI report, white working-class Americans were 20 points more likely than white college-educated Americans to think immigrants in the country illegally were taking Americans' jobs and causing economic problems.

Meanwhile, even as the 2012 Republican post-mortem called for a more inclusive attitude, racial tensions in the U.S. have erupted, notably in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore following the police-involved deaths of unarmed African-Americans.

But plenty of white people in the U.S. weren't buying that there was a big problem, nor have they shared African-Americans' suspicion of police officers or law enforcement tactics. And back in 2009, 28 percent of white Americans thought President Barack Obama's policies aimed at improving the standard of living of blacks in the U.S. would go too far.

This perception likely contributed to an opinion among some whites that they are the ones being treated unfairly. And among the white working class, such opinions are especially rooted. In the PRRI survey, 60 percent said discrimination against whites had become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities. Among Southern working-class whites, that number was a whopping 69 percent.

Trump, of course, hasn't exactly taken up the cause of multiculturalism or diversity. He's proposed banning Muslims from the country, called police officers "the most mistreated people" in America and stumbled when given the chance to immediately disavow support from a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.