The Corner

Politics & Policy

2016: A Year of Pluralities and Ticket-Splitting

Compare Donald Trump’s share in the most recent polls in key swing states – surveys that include Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein – and how Republican Senate candidates are doing in their races those same surveys:

Donald Trump’s share in the most recent polls in Florida: 41, 47, 42, 41.

Sen. Marco Rubio’s share in the same polls: 50, 40, 43, 41.

Donald Trump’s share in the most recent polls in Pennsylvania: 35, 40, 40.

Sen. Patrick Toomey’s share in the same polls: 44, 49, 40.

Donald Trump’s share in the most recent polls in Ohio: 35, 37.

Sen. Rob Portman’s share in the same polls: 44, 47.

Donald Trump’s share in the most recent polls in New Hampshire: 42, 39, 44, 42.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s share in the same polls: 51, 42, 48, 46.

Donald Trump’s share in the most recent polls in Iowa: 37, 44, 37.

Sen. Chuck Grassley’s share in the same polls: 52, 52, 46.

It’s not uniform, and obviously polls can change, but generally Republican Senate candidates are running a couple points ahead of Trump – and sometimes well ahead of Trump. This may or may not be enough for them to win, but it indicates he may not be as much of a drag on their chances as Trump critics feared.

The ingredients are in place for a lot of ticket-splitting among voters who otherwise would vote the straight party line, up and down the ballot. Trump is obviously different from a traditional Republican presidential nominee. Numerous Bernie Sanders supporters saw Hillary Clinton as an unacceptable corporatist, self-interested embodiment of the status quo. Both Trump and Clinton have low approval numbers and poll badly on the question of trustworthiness. Neither has shown much ability to mitigate their weaknesses since winning the nomination.

Note that in in the last seven four-way national polls, Trump has 33 to 41 percent of the vote; Clinton gets 37 to 45 percent. She leads all of them, by one to nine points, but so far there’s a consistent dynamic of Trump stuck in the high 30s and low 40s, and Clinton bobbing barely above or, in the not-yet-included CBS News/New York Times poll today, even.

The dynamics of 2016 may be something like that of 1992, with both party candidates in the 39 to 40something range, and Johnson and Stein playing the role of H. Ross Perot.  (Stein is currently on the ballot in 23 states.) Trump fans may fume, but Harry Enten observes, “pollsters that include Johnson and, less frequently, Stein are showing Clinton with a slightly smaller lead than pollsters that test only Trump and Clinton.” 

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