Trump v. Clinton: Enthusiasm and Turnout Dynamics

Jacob Linker, Fordham University:

From most of the projections thus far, along with a mixture of common sense and fear-induced hope, it seems that we will likely see Hillary Clinton win in November. Personally, I think this is the most likely outcome, but there are two factors at play that I feel deserve notice: Low voter turnout and differing levels of intensity between Trump supporters and Clinton supporters.

The former is the simpler point to argue: Donald Trump is actively trying to reduce Democratic- and Clinton-inclined voter turnout through his promotion of the (quite accurate as the DNC emails show) narrative of the martyrdom of Bernie Sanders. He has been railing on the issue for considerable time, but given how only 9% of Sanders’ supporters are for Trump it would seem that Sanders voters wouldn’t be the most effective demographic to court. However, in pushing the issue of the unfair treatment of the Sanders movement to the front of the public’s mind, it could have the effect of suppressing Democratic turnout or pushing more Sanderistas into the Stein or Johnson camps.

The issue of the third parties segways effectively into the second point: Trump’s backers are more strongly enthused for him than Clinton’s are for her. This is a bit of a complex and counterintuitive point to make, but I’d like to begin by affirming that this has already happened in this electoral cycle. In the Republican Primary, there wasn’t a single point at which Trump didn’t have the dubious honor of being number one in unfavorables, yet he managed to fare quite well. The logic behind this is that even though there was a broad distaste for the candidate, Trump’s supporters were more ardent and resolute behind their champion than, say, a supporter of Jeb Bush was, which meant that hypothetically Trump had a higher “bottom” than other candidates.

How does this phenomenon translate into the general election? There are 3.5 candidates (I count Stein as half a candidate because unlike Johnson, she has a 1-directional appeal-left-and will likely not make it into the debates, thus she is only a spoiler rather than a full candidate with a possibility of gaining electoral votes). I’d wager that Trump’s coalition of folks who love him and beleaguered republicans who will do anything to stop a third Democratic term is more coherent than Clinton’s rainbow coalition. In the game of attacks between Trump and Clinton, I’d wager that Clinton is more at risk of shedding voters to the other three candidates-Stein faring particularly well if Clinton makes a pivot to the center-than Trump is.



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