Politics & Policy

Donald Trump’s Appeal Is Based on Yesterday’s News

Trump works the crowd in Phoenix, Ariz., July 11, 2015. (Charlie Leight/Getty)

Aside from the court-ordered dribbling out of Hillary Clinton’s classified-material-filled emails, the big presidential-campaign news of the summer has been the boom for Donald Trump in the race for the Republican nomination. Trump has risen from 3 percent in the polls (when he announced on June 16) to where he now stands at 26 percent — 14 percent ahead of any other candidate.

Trump is drawing support from a constituency that in many ways resembles that amassed by another celebrity candidate who defied the usual political rules, Ross Perot in 1992. Like Perot, Trump runs better among whites than blacks, among men than women, among non-college graduates than college grads, in the suburbs and countryside than in big cities. Like Perot, he does not run especially strong among traditionally religious voters.

But there is one striking difference in their appeal. In November 1992 Perot won more than 20 percent among voters under 45 but only 12 percent among those 60 and over. Younger voters, perhaps less attached to parties than their elders, flocked to his side.

Donald Trump’s appeal is strongest at the other end of the age spectrum. Recent Quinnipiac and CNN/ORC polls showed him with over 40 percent favorable ratings from voters 50 and over. But his favorable ratings among voters under 35 were only 25 and 28 percent, while 66 to 68 percent of them rated him unfavorably.

These young voters have had few years in which to build up party loyalty, and they have been switching around. In 2008 voters under 30 went 66 percent for Barack Obama. But the current Quinnipiac survey shows the under-35 set voting only an average of 51 percent for Hillary Clinton when matched against Republicans Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump.

Many young people are apparently open to voting Republican — but not for Trump. For the Millennial generation, it appears, Donald Trump is yesterday’s news.

For the Millennial generation, it appears, Donald Trump is yesterday’s news.

Why should that be so? The best explanation I can come up with is that Trump’s signature issues, the issues on which he has sparked controversy and attracted attention — immigration and, often mentioned in the same breath, trade — are issues that have been declining in importance in recent years.

They still animate older voters, who have been paying attention for some time. But for younger voters, they’re yesterday’s news.

Consider Mexican immigration and Trump’s proposal — best taken as an opening counter in a negotiation — of forcing Mexico to somehow pay for construction of a fence on the southern border.

The fact is that net Mexican immigration since the 2007-2008 economic collapse has slowed to a trickle. Data compiled by the Pew Research Center, accepted as reasonably accurate by experts on all sides of the immigration debate, indicate that net migration from Mexico to the United States since 2007 has been zero. The numbers of illegal Mexican immigrants in the U.S. has declined from 6.9 million to 5.9 million.

Barely half of the country’s illegals now are from Mexico, and in 2014, for the first time, more non-Mexicans than Mexicans were apprehended on the border. More immigrants now come from China and India than from Mexico.

Two of the Obama administration’s actions regarding immigration have stirred outrage among Republicans: letting under-18 Central Americans be dispersed around the country last year; and putting forth a proposal, now blocked by a federal judge, to provide legal status not only to those brought over illegally as children but also to the parents who brought them over illegally. But these actions are not the focus of Trump’s complaints.

Trump has also not focused on proposals that could reduce the illegal population, like requiring employers to use e-Verify or, as Chris Christie reasonably advocated, using FedEx-like tracking methods to identify the nearly half of illegals who have overstayed legal visas. Trump’s focus instead is to stop a surge that is already over — again, yesterday’s news.

Similarly, Trump’s complaints about trade agreements, reminiscent of Perot, ignore the fact that international trade has continued to decline since 2009. Higher Chinese labor costs and the perils of long supply chains have led firms to return manufacturing jobs — onshoring — in the United States.

Declining international trade is of course a mixed blessing, a symptom of stagnant economies here and abroad. But “the giant sucking sound” Perot decried is a thing of the past — more of yesterday’s news.

Trump’s issues, still raging for older voters, don’t seem to resonate with the young. And don’t point to a way toward a Republican appeal to the electorate of the future.

— Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner. © 2015 the Washington Examiner. Distributed by Creators.com

Michael Barone — Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. © 2018 Creators.com

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More