Despite the polls, we have repeatedly said that Donald Trump has the advantage, since his supporters are so much more excited about him. While his approval ratings have always been about 41%, we noted that he won in 2016 with just 31% of registered voters. It doesn’t matter who people want (or don’t want)—unless they actually go to vote.
WE SAID TRUMP WOULD WIN IN A LANDSLIDE
We also did a whole article quoting people who said that Trump would win in a landslide. So maybe it’s time to give the other side of the story. There’s no question that Trump supporters are enthusiastic.
Polls consistently show that Trump’s supporters are more excited to vote for him than presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s supporters are to vote for him. For example, half of Trump supporters in a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll said they were “very excited” about their candidate, compared to just 27 percent of Biden backers.
BUT BIDEN MAY HAVE THE EDGE
However, the FiveThirtyEight article suggests that it’s possible that Biden actually has the edge in enthusiasm this year—not that people are more excited about him than Trump—but that there are so many people who are enthusiastic about defeating Trump.
Enthusiastic votes count just as much as unenthusiastic ones. . .
• First, while Biden voters may not be all that excited about voting for Biden, they’re very enthusiastic about voting against Trump. . .
In fact, according to survey data from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape project,
the share of Trump voters who rate Biden unfavorably is consistently much lower than the share of Biden voters who rate Trump negatively — nearly 30 percentage points lower as of the last survey conducted at the end of June. . .
• Second, because Trump voters don’t dislike Biden as much as Biden voters dislike Trump, Biden actually has an advantage in net enthusiasm (calculated as the difference between a candidate’s “very favorable” and “very unfavorable” rating). The gap on this metric has widened between the two in the past month, too.
THE NEGATIVE VOTE IS EVEN BIGGER THIS YEAR
The point is that Trump can’t count on “haters” to throw the election his way this time.
Trump can’t count on the “haters” to swing the election for him again. Registered voters with negative opinions of both Trump and Biden preferred Biden to Trump by a whopping 23-point margin in the polling Nationscape conducted in June. They also rated Biden less negatively overall, with only 33 percent of this group saying they had a very unfavorable opinion of Biden compared to 62 percent who said the same of Trump.
How powerful is negativity?
Growing racial, ideological, and cultural polarization within the American electorate contributed to the shocking victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. . .[It] also reinforced another longstanding trend in American electoral politics: the rise of negative partisanship, that is voting based on hostility toward the opposing party and its leaders.
The article says polarization is not unique to us, pointing out, at the outset of our country, the hostility between Federalists and Democrats made us wonder if we could even have a peaceful transition of power, then there was the Civil War over slavery, and the divisions in the 1960s and 1970s over civil rights and the Vietnam War. But it’s different this time
Something feels different about the current period, however. In his sheer mendacity and willingness to violate crucial democratic norms, apparently to protect himself and his family, Donald Trump appears to have gone beyond anything experienced during the Nixon years.
AND BIDEN ISN’T AS BADLY HATED
The election of 2016 was between the two most unpopular candidates in American history. That’s why the polls swung so erratically. The support was very shallow, and any little thing would sway people. A Fox News poll suggests that it won’t happen this year. It found that 76 percent had a “strongly unfavorable” opinion of Clinton last time, compared to 64 percent of Republicans who hold the same opinion of Biden, now.
Yes, Trump has double the enthusiastic supporters, and they have shown that they will do whatever they can to support him—including risking their lives (and the lives of others) to go to rallies. So the question is whether people who don’t like Trump will really take the time to go vote, or will just stay home and grouse, as they did in 2016.
WHEN BEING BORING CAN BE A GOOD THING
Aside from all that, there’s another issue. Trump thinks people like him because he’s a “showman.” He has actually said that Biden will never get Trump’s “ratings,” as if being a TV star is all that matters.
While it’s true that Americans have a small attention span, and want to be titillated all the time, we have a limit. In the early years of the last century, Americans were buffeted by an agonizing combination of a world war and—you know—a pandemic. It’s not that Woodrow Wilson had done anything wrong. We were just sick of the drama. The Republican, Warren G. Harding, even used the expression, a return to “normalcy” in his campaign, and won with 404 Electoral College votes and more than 60% of the popular vote. People were just burned out with all the “excitement.”
THE EVANGELICAL VOTE
It’s possible that that may be the same thing this year, after seeing what Vladimir Putin called a “colorful” president on the TV and radio and internet, etc., every single day, with outrageous claims and complaints. He’s even turning off Evangelicals.
Long before COVID-19 devastated Americans and the economy and the horrific public killing of George Floyd, the American electorate was tired and angry. It is tired of the incessant drama emanating from the current occupant of the Oval Office, and it is angry at how this presidency has played out because of that drama.
That is why new voter registration surged before the 2018 midterms and actual voter turnout — 53.4 percent — was the highest it had been for a midterm election in over 50 years, not because of overwhelming enthusiasm for individual Democrats. . .
Trump’s demeanor and governing style are self-sabotaging his re-election prospects. Look at Evangelical Christians: Trump’s support among white Evangelicals has dropped by 15 points since March and now stands at 62 percent. The reasons seem to be his handling of COVID-19 and the fallout from the killing of George Floyd.
THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN VOTE
Speaking of George Floyd, there has been a lot written about the drop off of African-American vote in 2016. Forbes notes that “almost two million black votes cast for Obama in 2012 did not turn out for Clinton.”
Obviously, African-Americans were more excited about voting for Obama. But that doesn’t explain it all. Blacks saw Hillary’s fight against Obama in 2008, and didn’t forgive her. This year, we have Obama’s partner running, so it’s likely that the Black vote will go back up.
“PEOPLE DON’T LOVE ME, MAYBE.”
Trump realizes he has a problem. In the recent town hall with Sean Hannity, he admitted that he might lose, as noted in the official White House transcript.
Joe Biden. . .he’s going to be your President because some people don’t love me maybe.
This year’s election may be a battle between love and hate, and we’ll see which is stronger.