A Wall Street Journal report details the heavy-lift President Donald Trump’s campaign has in trying to get white working-class voters who support Trump but didn’t vote in 2016 to the polls this November.
While Trump doubles-down on his supporters, who lack diversity, he also struggles to get low propensity voters to show up for him.
“Not long ago, white working-class voters flooded to the polls in unusually large numbers to help the GOP win the White House. But that year wasn’t 2016. It was 2004, and the president they turned out to re-elect was George W. Bush,” the Journal notes. “Today, Mr. Bush’s achievement in driving turnout suggests an opportunity for another Republican re-election bid. Donald Trump’s campaign has said its strategy is to boost voter registration and turnout among the people who most support him—largely, the white working-class—a goal distinct from trying to persuade undecided groups or Democrats to move his way.”
They looked at voter data showing Trump’s opportunity to get nonvoters to the polls. Most campaigns focus on getting out the vote (GOTV) among voters they can count on, then working their way down the list of lower propensity voters. Going after voters that last participated in 2004 isn’t generally something that campaigns would focus on. But, if those are the only people Trump has, the campaign may be forced to spend the dollars to beg them to come to the polls in November.
“Assuming the same turnout rates as in 2016, about 62% of Michigan’s nonvoters this year, or 1.6 million people, would be white residents without a four-year college degree, according to an analysis of census data by William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer,” cites the Journal. “In Pennsylvania, white residents without degrees also would account for about 62% of nonvoters or 2.1 million residents. In Wisconsin, they would account for 67% of nonvoters or more than 800,000 people. Mr. Trump won each of the three states by a margin of less than 1 percentage point.”
But the non-college whites aren’t supporting the president by a 100% margin. According to a combination of polls in the past several months, Biden is getting closer to 50% of that demographic. In 2016, 72 percent of the white non-college male vote and 62 percent of the white non-college female vote went to Trump. So if Trump wants to get more non-college whites to the polls in 2020, he’ll need at least a quarter more of his voters than Biden’s in the states he wants to win.
“There’s a rational explanation for why he never reached across the aisle. He saw a bigger plot of real estate among the people who never engaged in the election in 2016 to begin with,” the Journal cites GOP pollster Micah Roberts, who isn’t affiliated with the campaign. “Those people are a huge chunk of the potential vote.”
The primary concern for the president, however, is that if vote-by-mail is restricted, Trump calls out the National Guard to the polls, polling places are restricted, and voters must stand in line for six-plus hours at a time, he’s going to lose those voters as much as Biden will. Most working people can’t stand in line all day to cast a ballot.
“So far I don’t see evidence that there’s an impending wave of 2016 nonvoters who are pro-Trump,” the Journal cites David Wasserman, of the Cook Political Report. “That’s not to say it can’t happen.”