Trump’s risky strategy (and why it will fail)

Donald Trump is a pretty savvy marketer. Despite having some pretty awful business acumen, he has managed to stay in the media and pop culture for decades. He’s used that particular to tap into a group of voters that has been largely ignored: the less educated working class (predominately white) poor to great effect in polls. And it’s unlikely to work.

By Jesse Harris
By Jesse Harris

Trump isn’t the first candidate who swears up and down that they’ll tap into a previously disengaged voting demographic. Young people, poor people, various racial groups, and more have all been courted at some point or another as a way to tip the electoral scales in a candidate’s favor. Aside from Barack Obama’s engagement of younger voters in 2008 ( a mere 4% bump from 2004 which he failed to repeat in 2012), it doesn’t seem to work.

When you drill down on those YUUUGE poll results for Trump, you start to notice a trend. The polls he does best in include people who either are less likely to vote or ineligible to participate in the caucuses and primaries that make up the nomination process. Those voters with lower education levels? Not only is their turnout miserable (barely over 30% in 2012), but it’s been on the decline for three decades. White voters? They are a steadily shrinking set of the population. The polls with the best numbers are “lean Republican”, yet most primaries (and all caucuses) require you to be a registered Republican. Once the polling sample becomes “likely registered Republican voters”, Trump’s numbers get weaker and weaker.

While it could be possible that these non-Republican non-voters suddenly decide to change their affiliation and go to the polls, it seems odd that they would do so. After all, they’re as angry at the Republican Party as much as they are the Democratic Party. As much as Trump riles up these groups, would it be enough to motivate them to hold their nose, change their party affiliation, and participate in the intra-party political process where most people who have been there hate their candidate with the fiery passion of a thousand suns? I think we all know the answer to that.

Maybe it’s possible that Trump defies all logic and trend lines to remake the electorate in his image. My money is on it being highly unlikely.

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