29 March 2016

Trump the unpopular... maybe not #nlpoli

Apparently, Donald Trump is the most unpopular American presidential candidate since 1992.

The Toronto Star's American correspondent produced a lovely article on Friday.  It started with the results of a couple of recent comparisons showing how unpopular Donald Trump is in survey research conducted during the current primaries compared to every candidate going back to 1992.

Then Daniel Dale tells us what will happen when this trainwreck gets to the general election November.

If you've already decided Trump is the antiChrist - that is, if you are a regular Star reader - you will skim this confirmation of what you already knew.

But you might want to look more closely at this piece to see a couple of really glaring - and really obvious mistakes - it makes.
The most obvious mistake Dale makes is that he relies on a comparison by Gallup that compares apples and oranges.   The Gallup comparison uses Donald Trump and the other primary candidates at the moment and compares them to the party nominees in the head-to-head competition for the White House.

Right now,  the campaigns are extremely negative as candidates for the nominations try to distinguish themselves from the pack.  In the current Republican contest, for example, we have entered a particularly nasty phase as the party establish tries to stop the Trump juggernaut.  On top of that you have the rather belated but intensifying campaign from the media to attack Trump.

In that climate, it's not surprising that a majority of respondents don't like Trump.  What most people are getting in their everyday environment are a lot of negative messages about Trump.  The stimulus produces a predictable response.

Despite that negativity,  Trump is doing very well in the Republican primaries.  He is leading his closest rival - Ted Cruz - by a substantial margin and may well have locked up the nomination before the convention.  Invariably,  candidates for the major parties move toward the political centre during the general election.  Odds are very good that party nominee Trump will moderate some of his positions just as the Democratic candidate - especially if it is Bernie Sanders - will shift from the left toward the centre of the voter spectrum.  The parties want to win a majority and you cannot win a majority by appealing only to the extremes.

Really obvious point.

Missed big time in the Star.

That's why you cannot dismiss Trump because right now lots of folks don't like him.  Come the fall the numbers will change.  If Gallup had shown us a comparison of primary candidates compared to the showing in the fall general election, you might have a shot at making an argument about Trump's relatively unpopularity with huge chunks of the electorate.

Dale's second big mistake is to leap into the fall general as if the raw make-up of the whole population matches up with the number of folks who will vote.  Sure 52% of the population is female.  It also doesn;t matter what the percentage of the population is for any other segment.

What will matter is who turns out in the fall.

And by then, the dynamics of the race will likely make DOnald trump look very different from the way people perceive him right now.