More than one fourth of voters who identify as conservative intend to vote for Clinton, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted May 30 through June 3. The level of support for her is almost even among the categories “very conservative,” “moderately conservative,” and “lean conservative.” Twenty-six percent of “very conservative” voters support Clinton, compared with 56 percent who support Trump. Conversely, among liberals, Trump is supported by only 12.3 percent.
It’s only one poll and we should not exaggerate its reliability as a measure of voter sentiment, but these data points are striking and worth noting. They turn on its head the speculation that the Trump campaign could repeat the Reagan Democrat wave of the 1980s. The question is not “What draws conservatives to Clinton?” but “What pushes them there?”
Some conservatives have concluded that Trump’s policy positions, insofar as they can be pinned down, are in many cases even more statist than those of the conventional Left. They point to his enthusiasm for eminent domain, raising tariffs, and revising libel laws so that officeholders can more easily punish and silence their critics in the media. (Feel free to add to the list.) That last item reflects his vacillation between advocating government expansion and promising outright caudillismo.
On the question of character, the two candidates are a wash. Or are they? The cynicism represented by Clinton is all too familiar; by Trump, all too strange. That he impersonated his own fictional publicists two decades ago, admitted to it at the time, and then denied it recently, despite evidence to the contrary, is emblematic of his flightiness and dishonesty, which he demonstrated both in pretending to be someone he wasn’t and then in pretending he hadn’t pretended. He contradicts himself glibly on the campaign trail. His word has been rendered almost meaningless, which may be just as well when he is busy arguing that nuclear proliferation would be in U.S. interests.
In insisting that the federal judge in the Trump University case can’t be impartial because his ethnic heritage is Mexican, Trump concedes that one of the pillars on which his campaign rests is white Anglo resentment. He implies that racial-identity politics, which conservatives oppose on principle, are okay to borrow from the Left if you think you can use them to your advantage. He advances the belief that we are a nation of men, not laws — a perfect reversal of small-r republican conservatism.
The litany of Clinton’s depravities is even more famous, and conservatives who take their Never Trump position all the way to voting for her in order to stop him can expect to be chastised by loyal Republicans. But if Reuters-Ipsos is correct, Trump has kept in his camp only a bare majority of voters who identify as conservative and has lost a quarter of conservatives to his Democratic opponent. The latter group is sometimes dismissed as a cadre consisting of a few contrarian pundits, but here is one poll that says that Bret Stephens and George Will speak for millions.