A high-water mark for Trump?

Okay, maybe this is just my liberal bias talking, but I cannot help wondering if we’re not pretty close to a high-water mark for Trump right now.  Like, maybe come November 9th, we’ll all go, “remember mid-September when liberals and sane people all freaked out because they thought Trump was going to win?”

To be clear, I’m not saying this is a high-point for Trump, I just think there’s a genuine chance it might be.  I just really don’t see where he picks up any more votes.  As for Clinton, I see a pretty clear place where she picks up more votes– young voters who are currently supporting Johnson or Stein in amazing numbers.  Vox’s Tara Golshak addresses the dynamic:

Third-party candidate Gary Johnson, the Libertarian from New Mexico, is doing better than most minor party candidates do at this point in a presidential election — he’s currently pulling about 8 percent of the vote in national polls.

One apparent reason for this — as outlined by Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight and Matt Yglesias here — is that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are two uniquely unpopular candidates. In other words, voters hate the leaders of the major parties so much that the idea of casting a ballot for the “lesser of two evils” candidate is too much an ask for some of them.

But there seems to be another factor in play, as YouGov pollster Will Jordan pointed out on Twitter: Far more third-party and undecided voters think Clinton will win than think Trump is going to win. Fully 50 percent of those voters say they think Clinton will win, while only 15 percent say they think Trump will (with the rest unsure)…

This point supports another theory behind Johnson’s relatively strong performance so far, as Andrew Gelman, a statistician and political science professor at Columbia University, shared with me in August:

“Perot in 1992 received 19 percent of the vote but won zero states. That election was not close, which perhaps made people feel more free to vote for a third party. I’d guess that the opportunity for third-party success in 2016 is again if the election does not seem like it will be close,” Gelman said.

Back in August, Clinton had a comfortable lead over Trump. But now that the polls have narrowed — some even have Trump leading in key swing states — it’s possible these voters will start thinking their votes really matter again, and will choose a major party nominee.

But if the sentiment that a third-party candidate vote doesn’t matter persists, it could pose a particular challenge for Clinton.

But here’s the thing, these polls keep showing an essentially tied race and it’s hard to imagine much of a widespread belief persisting that these third-party votes don’t matter.  Sure, it’s possible lots of disaffected Bernie voters and such stay with Johnson/Stein and swing the race to Trump, but I honestly do think it more likely that the longer the race seems truly close, the more this false confidence fades and these voters break in large numbers for Clinton.  Of course, time will tell.

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

3 Responses to A high-water mark for Trump?

  1. rgbact says:

    IDK about that. He’s still losing a decent chunk of typical R voters. People like me. Those are likely the more educated ones that are partisan and rebeled against his antics. If he can tone down the insanity, they should be easy for him to bring back into the fold,since they are reliable voters overall.

    The key is he’s crushing Hillary with independents. Obama could make that up with strong base turnout .I’m not sure Hillary can..

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