Trump and the demographics of the general election

Jamelle Bouie makes the case (and one I am very much in agreement with), that America’s pattern of demographics and voting in recent general elections makes a November win very unlikely for Trump:

Unlike Republicans, Democrats plan to hit Trump with a fusillade of attacks from all directions. And they plan to exploit weaknesses that Republicans didn’t touch until it was too late to stop Trump. They’ll hit Trump for his open and vicious misogyny; they’ll publicize his history of racism and discrimination; they’ll attack him where he’s strong with stories of ordinary people he’sscammed and defrauded; they’ll emphasize the fact that he doesn’t know anything about the world or governing…

Which brings us back to our question. If Trump is a viable general election candidate—if he has a shot at the White House—how does he do it? How does he improve on Mitt Romney?

Let’s look at the popular vote. Trump needs to win about 3 million morevotes [than Romney] to turn the tide. He needs to do that in an environment where the incumbent president is popular, the economy is growing, and most people are satisfied with their direction in life. By itself, that’s difficult… [emphases mine]

Eighty-seven percent of all Latino voters have a negative view of Trump, according to a new Latino Decisions national survey. In Florida, it’s 84 percent. In other Latino heavy swing states like Colorado and Nevada, it’s 91 percent and 87 percent, respectively. If Trump loses 87 percent of Latino voters nationwide (and nothing else changes from 2012), the Democrats add North Carolina to their 2012 haul as well as 8 million more popular votes.

OK, well, what about black Americans? There aren’t any detailed polls of blacks vis-à-vis Trump, but most nationalsurveys show disapproval in the 80 to 90 percent range. If black turnout stays at its present trajectory, Trump will need to crack 15 percent with blacks to peel critical swing states from Democrats. (A Trump who could accomplish that is also a Trump who is clearly winning.) No Republican has secured more than 15 percent of the black vote in 60 years.

Trump is deeply unpopular with women, too. Seventy percent hold a negative view, according to a recent Gallup survey. If Trump loses 70 percent of women, then he’s lost, period.

What about white voters? The white share of the electorate has shrunk 2 points to 69 percent, while the Hispanic, black, and Asian shares have grown. In fact, of the 10.7 million increase in eligible voters, the large majority comes from nonwhite groups. If nothing else about the 2012 results change, the Democratic candidate will win with more votes across the board. Given that fact, as Greg Sargent details for theWashington Post, Trump would have to outperform Romney by substantial margins among whites to win Rust Belt states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania

Donald Trump begins the general election with a huge deficit in head-to-head polls, deep unpopularity, and major demographic headwinds. Unless he wins unprecedented shares of black and Latino voters, or, barring any improvement with nonwhite voters, unless he wins unprecedented shares of white voters, he loses. And he has to do this while running as the most unpopular nominee in 30 years of polling. He has to do it while running against a Democratic Party operating at full strength, with popular surrogates (including a former president) crisscrossing the country against his campaign. He has to do it with a divided Republican Party. He has to do it while somehow tempering his deep-seated misogyny and racism. All this, again, in agrowing economy with a well-liked president—solid conditions for a Democratic candidate.

Ummmm, yep.  Now, that’s no guarantee Trump will lose.  The economy could stop growing and Hillary could be indicted or there could be some other exogenous shock to the system.  But barring that, it truly is hard to see Trump’s path to victory.

Alas, that won’t stop many pundits from proclaiming one for him by overly focusing on campaign effects.  For example, in the Post Philip Wallach writes that, among other things, “Trump is much better at dictating the terms of engagement.”  He may be.  But I think the state of the economy and candidate favorable/unfavorable ratings are far more predictive.  Yes, Trump can win.  But if he does, it’s not because he’s some Jedi Master campaigner, but because the fundamentals of the campaign– which now heavily favor Clinton– change in an unexpected way to favor Trump.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Trump and the demographics of the general election

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    It remains to be seen how much voter repression affects turnout and disqualifies significant numbers of would-be voters.
    It’s hard to sleep well until “Not Trump” wins the general election.

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