The Penn State University Department of Agricultural, Economics, Sociology and Education conducted the study, examining voting patterns in 3,106 counties with the highest drug, alcohol and suicide mortality rates in the nation.
It found that Trump outperformed Romney in 2,469 of those counties. His best performance was in impoverished rural areas like West Virginia.
“The U.S.’s unprecedented opiate epidemic was an important theme of the 2016 presidential campaign,” the report states. “Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump expressed concern about the crisis and offered strategies to deal with it.”
“The opiate crisis also pervaded many key campaign issues, including international trade, immigration, and health care.
“Trump support and opiate overdoses in key states provide potential explanations for why Trump received so much support in America’s new post-industrial ‘heroin beltway,'” the study said.
The industrial Midwest, where “decades of automation, consolidation, and relocation have resulted in increased unemployment and wage stagnation,” and Appalachia, still struggling with chronic unemployment, disability and poverty, are areas where Trump performed the strongest.
“Given Trump’s emphasis on job growth, it is not surprising that he performed the best in economically distressed and working-class counties,” the study noted.
Trump, however, is already abandoning his working-class supporters as he assembles his cabinet in advance of his inauguration.
His choice to head the Department of Labor, Andrew Puzder, is a leading critic of expanding overtime pay for workers and raising the federal minimum wage.
“President-elect Trump’s reported choice to lead the Labor Department has done everything in his power to undermine the rights of American workers, from driving down wages to opposing overtime pay,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement.
“Even worse, Andrew Puzder presided over a fast-food chain that repeatedly stole workers’ hard earned wages.
“The fact that Mr. Puzder has now reportedly been selected to lead the same agency that uncovered wage theft at his restaurants is a cruel and baffling decision by President-elect Trump,” he said.
In his new job, Puzder will be responsible for enforcing workplace rules, many of which safeguard the safety of coal miners.
What’s more, Trump’s plan to cut government taxes and entitlement programs will hurt the so-called “heroin belt” the worst. Right now stakes like Mississippi, New Mexico, West Virginia, Hawaii, South Carolina, Alabama, Maine, Montana, Alaska, Virginia, Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky and Vermont will bear the burden of federal spending cuts.
Those states now get back more than $2 back for every $1 in federal taxes paid, according to a study by the Pew Charitable Trust.
West Virgina, called “ground zero” for opiate addiction by the Penn State study, currently gets $4.43 in federal aide for every tax dollar paid.
On top of aid cuts for social programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, an estimated 29.8 million U.S. citizens will lose their health insurance if ObamaCare is abolished. Of those, 16.6 million are white working-class Americans–Trump’s core base.
Neither Trump nor congressional Republicans have yet to outline a plan to provide affordable coverage.
“Trump promised change,” the study concluded.
“It remains to be seen whether and how the Trump Administration’s economic, health, and social policies bring relief to the individuals and communities now mired in diseases and deaths of despair.”