Do many Democrats support Donald Trump?
That’s a question raised by some of the comments we get on Trump poll stories. Or rather, it’s not so much a question raised as an assertion made, sometimes with expletives.
These Trumpians start by blasting our analysis that Trump’s voter base remains limited, since it’s about 30 percent of the 30 percent of America that are declared Republicans. Trump’s Army is much huger than that, they claim. Why even lots of Democrats are behind him! They know many of these potential party-switchers personally. At least that’s what they claim.
They may get this Democrats-for-The-Donald idea straight from the man himself. Trump has said he’d get lots of Democrats in the general election, just like Ronald Reagan did in 1980.
“I think me, more than anybody else, I’ll go across lines ... I will have a lot of Democrats voting for me – far more than any Republican for the last long period of time,” Trump said in an August interview with CNN’s Don Lemon.
On the surface this makes sense. Trump has donated lots of money to Democrats in the past. He’s mused that single-payer health care works fine in some countries. He’s defended some social programs while appearing open to some taxes on the rich.
The Club for Growth, among other conservative groups, has run ads this cycle portraying Trump as a closet Democrat that true Republicans should not support.
But no, there really aren’t Democrats behind Trump – at least, not many. There are outliers, but they’re rare. The analogy would be to Yankee fans living in Boston’s Back Bay. They exist. It’s just the prevailing sentiment is about 90 percent in the other direction.
For instance, in a general election match-up between Hillary Clinton and Trump, 91 percent of Democrats would vote for Clinton, according to a just-released Quinnipiac University survey. Only 7 percent would vote for Trump.
Seven percent of Republicans would vote for Clinton, so in that particular poll the party-switchers cancel out. (Overall, Clinton wins the Quinnipiac head-to-head 47 to 41 percent, in case you’re interested.)
On the surface, an October PublicPolicyPolling survey of New Hampshire voters looks better for Trump. The poll asked Granite State Democrats which Republican they’d like to see win their crucial early primary.
Nineteen percent of New Hampshire Democrats opted for The Donald. That was good enough for second place in this notional Republican primary for Democratic voters. Ohio Gov. John Kasich won, with 25 percent.
But there’s a catch – pressed, half those voters said they wanted Trump to win because he’d be the easiest candidate for the Democrats to defeat in November. Only 9 percent said they actually liked the billionaire real estate magnate.
This split shouldn’t be surprising. Trump’s fierce opposition to undocumented immigrants has earned him the enmity of Hispanics, a key Democratic Party constituency.
Plus, partisanship remains the best predictor of voting behavior in a general presidential election. The vast majority of Democrats, approaching 90 percent, will vote for the Democratic candidate. The same will be true for the Republican candidate. The parties are much more distinct ideologically than they were even thirty-five years ago, and that makes for more stable party-line votes.
If Trump ran as a third-party candidate, it might be a different story. An August Rasmussen poll found that 19 percent of Democrats said they might vote for Trump under those circumstances.
But Trump’s not running as an independent. At least, not yet.