Trump’s “mandate”: not so popular

Nice piece from Will Saletan looking at public opinion on key elements of Trump’s agenda.

Trump thinks the country stands behind him on these issues. “Under the Constitution, the American people get the final say [on] who can and cannot enter our nation,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declared Wednesday. “And they’ve spoken loud and clearly through our laws.”

But when Americans are asked directly, they don’t support Trump on these issues. Whites, whatever their feelings about Trump’s economic message, don’t support his policies against Muslims or undocumented immigrants. Men, whatever their feelings about abortion, don’t condone Trump’s treatment of women. The more Trump hammered these issues in his campaign, the more the public turned against his ideas. If he thinks the election was a mandate for what he’s done this week, he’s in for a surprise.

A few key charts:

170126_POL_undocumentedChart

170126_POL_muslimChart

170126_POL_immigrationChart

And Saletan’s conclusion:

There’s no guarantee that polls will continue to move against Trump or that the public will stop his agenda. That’s up to us. And his election, even with 46 percent of the vote, shows that many Americans still don’t see sexism and bigotry as disqualifying. They don’t yet understand, or perhaps care, that toleration of discrimination is how discrimination persists. That should trouble all of us.

But the election wasn’t a mandate for chauvinism. It doesn’t show that whites liked Trump’s attacks on immigrants or Muslims. It doesn’t show that men liked his attacks on women. They didn’t, and they like it less every day. The people are on our side, and they get the last word. Let’s make sure they deliver it.

That said, at this point Trump doesn’t need the support of the American people.  He needs support of Republicans.  And, here, I would have loved to see Saletan break out the results by party.  Something tells me if you look at these polling questions from Republicans only, the results would be very different and far more supportive of Trump.

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Democrats’ biggest demographic problem

Forget working class white voters.  Sean Trende— who was as right about this election as anybody– does a really, really interesting post-election analysis without even explicitly considering race.  Democrats’ problem is that their voters are ever more increasingly clustered in urban areas and therefore ever more inefficiently distributed to win elections.  This graph is kind of amazing:

In case that’s not entirely clear.  Where once Democrats competed on roughly equal footing on various levels of urbanicity, they are now getting killed outside mega and large cities.  And there’s just not enough mega and large cities:

In other words, the Democrats’ coalition of the ascendant is very inefficiently distributed.  We therefore opted to utilize a demographic (urbanicity) that is easily filtered through a geographic component (CBSAs) and that people intuitively think of in geographic terms.  What we discovered is a different dimension to the Democrats’ demographic inefficiency problem: They are becoming far too clustered in urban centers to be effective, even when they win the popular vote.

Winning mega-cities by 30 points is great, but her margin there was mostly (though not entirely) neutralized by her poor performance in large rural areas and small towns alone. Again, her vote in these mega-cities was also inefficiently distributed in already-blue states; the swing states with mega-cities tend to have large amounts of rural land, which is why she lost Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Finally, we note that while rural and small-town America are disappearing, that disappearance is happening much more gradually than people appreciate…

But we get back to our initial point: In our system of government, popular vote metrics are only sensible when put through a geographic filter.  This causes problems in the Electoral College, which we’ve recounted before.  There are only nine “mega-cities” in America: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas.  These, in turn, affect 11 states: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia and Texas.

In other words, in seven of these states, further growth in this area does no good for Democrats, as they are already blue. In three others (Pennsylvania, Florida and Georgia), the rural areas, towns, and small cities cast enough votes to outvote the mega-city.  The final one – Texas – may be the key to a Democratic majority down the road, but Hillary Clinton still lost it by nine points, with a lot of Romney’s votes going to third party candidates. Put differently, the place where the Democratic coalition is growing the most does them the least good, electorally speaking.

But if it causes problems in the Electoral College, it wreaks havoc in the Senate, House, and state legislatures.  While only 11 states have mega-cities, 18 states have neither mega-cities nor large cities.  To put this in perspective, a party that sweeps the rural and town-dominated states starts out with 36 Senate seats.  This won’t happen, of course – Vermont isn’t going Republican any time soon – but Republicans also have a solid foundation in states with large cities, like Oklahoma and Kansas.  Because of the Democrats’ concentration in cities, and because of the concentration of the urban vote in relatively few states, the Senate is now a natural Republican gerrymander.

In the House, it is largely the same story…

 3. This is reversible.

We close with the following thought.  This happened for a reason, and since it happened for a reason, it is probably reversible.  But it won’t happen overnight.  Democrats were once able to win rural areas, and send large numbers of members of Congress from these places.  That was in part because they focused their message on these areas, and tolerated culturally conservative Democrats like Harold Volkmer in Missouri and Sonny Montgomery in Mississippi.

But for much of the Obama administration, these members were forced to take a series of tough votes that rendered the Blue Dog Democrat a near-extinct species. Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016 was almost entirely directed toward the coalition of the ascendant in mega-cities, which is a decent enough coalition for the popular vote, but is highly problematic for the Electoral College.

We very much doubt that liberal Democrats will like some of policy compromises that winning back these areas probably entails. We suspect, however, that they will find that preferable to the policies that will be enacted over the next four years.

I’m not sure if more socially conservative Democrats are the key to reversing this.  That said, I think Trende is exactly right that Democrats’ future electoral hopes do depend up– at least somewhat– reversing this trend.  Now, how to do that?  (Or, maybe it really is just more socially conservative Democrats?)

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