Trump Is Only at 10% of the Vote


By Josep Colomer.



The messy, long season of staggered primary elections make comparisons with more usual elections difficult. But beyond the fragmented figures and percentages that are given by the media, we can look at the numbers of votes with a different light.

The turnout in the Republican primaries this year is higher than ever before. If we compare the total number of voters in the primaries with the numbers of voters in the presidential election –a rarely published comparison–, the average participation for forty years was about 30%. The primary voters are those with more intense political preferences and, as such, relatively more extreme than the average voters of the party. That’s why the primaries may not produce the most electable candidates and are a box of surprises. Typically, a pre-candidate’s gets a sudden momentum and many voters jump on the bandwagon, sometimes helped by apposite manipulations of campaigns and rules by the party bosses.

The tradition of minority participation, however, was broken by the Democratic primaries in 2008, which, as they innovatively involved an African-American and a woman as the main pre-candidates, generated broad passions. Up to about 60% of the voters for the Democratic presidential candidate Obama in November 2008 had participated in the previous Democratic primaries, doubling the traditional average. This year, the Republican primaries are getting similar proportions. The season is still open, but the turnout in the ongoing Republican primaries may go even above the 60% of the Republican party votes in the last presidential election in 2012.

In the current primaries, The Donald Trump is rather consistently receiving about one-third of the votes (with limit values around 25% and 50%). This is about 20% of the votes for the Republican candidate Romney four years ago (60% x 1/3). Assuming that the two main parties may split again the votes not very far from 50/50, the proportion of primary votes for The Donald so far would be about 10% of the total number of votes in the presidential election four years ago. The results on the recent Super Tuesday illustrate this estimate: for example, in two states where Obama won four years ago, Massachusetts in the North and Virginia in the South, The Donald collected 10% and 9%, respectively, of the votes cast in the presidential election in 2012. In two states where the Republican candidate won four years ago, Georgia and Texas, The Donald collected 13% and 9%, respectively, of the 2012 presidential votes.

Any prediction from these numbers for the election in November may need some heroic assumptions. But we can always try. The first point is what the 80% of the previous Republican voters who have not yet supported The Donald may do (including the about two-thirds of those who have participated in the primaries but have voted for other pre-candidates). In case The Donald became the party’s candidate, some Republican voters might stay attached to party loyalty and joint ranks. But the level of aggressiveness between The Donald and other Republican pre-candidates has achieved unseen levels (not even remotely comparable to those between Obama and Clinton, who managed to work together afterwards, or now between Clinton and Sanders, who shouldn’t have big trouble in supporting the party convention’s choice of candidate). Not to be discarded it’s a broken Republican party convention in July which may require hard-to-win negotiations among party bosses and delegates. Or even that either The Donald or somebody else may run as a third major candidate in the presidential election.

The other point, of course, is what the Democrats will be able to do. So far, the turnout in the Democratic primaries is also somewhat higher than usual, at about 40% of voters for Obama in the presidential election four years ago. If the Democratic candidate were able to sustain a relatively high mobilization in the three months before the election in November, (s)he should get a blatant win.

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