LINCOLN–Anna Welch wasn’t always interested in survival gear, but a lot has changed in the past year.
The 28-year-old Omaha native and her husband, Bradan, said a growing list of concerns brought them to the Greater Nebraska Survival Expo at the Lancaster Event Center on Sunday, namely climate change and the current political climate.
“I feel like (there’s) no solid foundation right now,” she said. “We’re at the time where we have to have our own backs, unfortunately.”
According to experts in the survival gear industry, Welch is part of a growing demographic of left-leaning buyers who have become more concerned about their safety since the election of President Trump.
Michael Baisch, owner of Utah-based Preparedness Essentials, has been in the survival gear industry for over seven years. He said the industry, which includes everything from water filters and first aid kits to knives and body armor, has seen a decline following Trump’s election after years of growth.
During President Barack Obama’s terms, Baisch said survival gear vendors were present at more gun shows and the industry was seeing growth with a majority of its customers leaning right. Now that Trump’s in office, his best-selling expo was in Chicago, a liberal-leaning city.
“There’s a shift there,” he said. “Now the other side wants to buy things because the right’s going to bring it to an end.”
Bob Gaskin, the owner of Black Dog Survival School, has seen the trend as well.
Up until 2009, Gaskin said a majority of his customers had high school diplomas, worked blue-collar jobs and had right-leaning political beliefs, what he called the “Average Joe.” After the 2016 presidential election, demographics took a sharp turn to the left. He said now, more customers than ever are white-collar workers with a college education.
Gaskin said people need to look no further than Minneapolis for proof. He estimated the liberal-leaning city’s 2015 survival expo had about 1,100 attendees. Just two years later, he said that number shot up to around 7,000.
The survival gear industry’s decline can be attributed to this rapid shift. Gaskin said the survival expos haven’t yet caught up with the change in demographics and continue to take place in areas with right-leaning communities.
“Omaha’s about 40, 42 percent Democratic,” he said. “If we did an expo in Omaha, we’d have a much better turnout than we did here in Lincoln.”