Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

Why Trump wins independents in polls while struggling with them in primaries

By 37ci3 Feb27,2024



Donald Trump is winning the primaries handily and has a virtual lock on the Republican presidential nomination — but the general interpretation of the results says he’s also showing deep vulnerabilities that show dire electoral results among independents.

But there is a panic. A look at the general election polls reveals a very different story among independent voters — and given all the other data we have about the 2024 presidential race, why Trump’s poor independent numbers in the primaries and better performance in the general election polls are perfectly consistent shows. each other. Short answer: These are two very different groups of voters.

First, the evidence for Trump’s vulnerability among independents voting in this year’s GOP primaries is simple. Despite his candidacy being widely accepted, even by his critics, Trump is still losing about 40% of the Republican vote. And it’s crushing among independents, a group that looms large in November. Here’s how bad Trump’s numbers have been with them so far, according to exit poll data (note that no exit polls were conducted in Michigan):

But a recent NBC News poll paints a very different picture among independent general election voters:

For context, according to a national exit poll by NBC News, Trump lost the 2020 independent vote to President Joe Biden by 9 points, 52-43%. So the current general election poll actually shows Trump with a slight lead (and a decline for Biden) among independents, despite a significant number indicating they don’t want either candidate.

For that matter, even with Trump losing 40% of the overall vote in the Republican primaries, general election polls show no sign of his support among Republican voters weakening. In our latest poll, he received 92% support from Republicans.

How can this be? Look at the primary results and you see a front-runner who is bleeding independents at an alarming rate and a Republican electorate that is broadly resistant to him. And yet, look at the general election polls and you’ll see that there’s almost none of that.

It is possible that there really is no inconsistency here.

Start with simple things. Some of former UN ambassador Nikki Haley’s core voters (23% of them in South Carolina, according to exit polls) still say they would be satisfied with Trump as the GOP nominee. So at least some of Trump’s current opposition is willing to rally around him in the general election, which helps explain why general election polls show nearly unanimous Republican support for Trump.

Given Biden’s terrible poll numbers with independents (a 27% approval rating with them in a recent NBC News poll), there’s no doubt some of them will be motivated to vote against Biden in November and thus vote for Trump. they will never be satisfied with Trump.

But all this only goes so far. That still leaves the majority of Haley’s core voters pitted against Trump for good.

The answer that reconciles these numbers, or at least a large portion of them, with the general election poll is that many of those Haley votes likely came from people who voted against Trump in 2016 and 2020 and are committed to doing so. Again in 2024.

For them, these primaries are a bonus opportunity to cast another vote against Trump.

The pool of independents voting in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries will be very different from the much larger pool of independents who will vote this fall. After all, primaries attract much lower voter turnout than general elections, so those most motivated to participate can steer the independent pool in different directions. The question is, is there a particular type of independent who is disproportionately drawn to running in these GOP primaries?

And here’s an obvious answer: “Trump’s resistance.” Opposition to Trump spans many demographic groups, but the most dramatic activism against him has come from white, college-educated voters in the suburbs. Many of them regularly voted Republican until Trump came along. In 2012, white college graduates favored Mitt Romney over Barack Obama by 14 points, according to a national exit poll. But by 2020, they were up to 15 over Biden and Trump.

This swing is only part of the story. Importantly for our purposes, the anti-Trump segment of white, college-educated voters also proves exceptionally motivated to get to the polls and vote against Trump and his party in every possible election.

We saw this a few weeks ago in a special election anchored in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, a Long Island suburb. Like primaries, special elections are low-turnout affairs where the difference in turnout can make all the difference. Sure enough, per Information compiled by Newsday, in the five largest concentrations of white, college-educated voters in the Long Island part of the district, turnout was between 69 and 76 percent of the level seen in the 2022 midterm elections. In these places, the Democratic candidate Tom Suozzi acted fraudulently.

By comparison, turnout in the five seats with the lowest share of white college-educated voters was only 54 to 61 percent of the 2022 level. This difference goes a long way to explain how Suozzi won the race by 8 points.

And it’s not just Long Island. Democrats have won back-to-back special elections, often by unexpectedly wide margins, because of this enthusiasm.

There is every reason to suspect that the same energy is at work in the GOP presidential race. Rules in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Michigan allow non-Republicans to participate en masse, meaning there are few barriers for “resistance” types to participate. They may not consider themselves Republicans, but they are eager to vote, so why not join? massespecially without any meaningful competition on the Democratic side?

This is consistent with what we’ve seen so far, with Haley’s support rising and falling based on the concentration of whites with college degrees in any field. For example, in South Carolina on Saturday, he actually won the state’s 1st Congressional District by 6 points. Not coincidentally, the 1st District contains the state’s highest share of white college-educated voters, with its anchor, Charleston County, ranking No. 1 among counties.

And we know that many of these college-educated whites voted for Joe Biden in 2020 because he won Charleston County by 11 points. For Haley, that made Charleston the only potential source of crossover votes from anti-Trump non-Republicans. He seemed to take full advantage, leading Trump by 24 points in the state — his best showing anywhere.

The tight political nexus of anti-Trump, college-educated whites has been evident for some time. In November, this could be crucial in ensuring that a large part of the Democratic base needs no incentive to vote. That could turn into a decisive advantage for Democrats in close battleground states, especially if overall voter turnout falls significantly below 2020’s record highs.

But when it comes to the now-opening GOP primaries, what at first appears to be a new and alarming weakness for Trump may very well be the latest manifestation of a now-familiar phenomenon.



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