In the wake of the incredibly damaging video showing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump having an extremely lewd conversation about women, a sizable fraction of the Republican elite has deserted him. Fourteen of the 54 sitting Republican senators no longer support him. Will Republican voters flee from their candidate as well?
A Fox News poll released hours before the video showed 87 percent support from Republicans for their candidate in a two-way race (84 percent if you include the Libertarian and Green Party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein). In 2012 Mitt Romney captured 93 percent of the Republican vote, and in 2008 John McCain had 90 percent. In context, Trump’s support among Republican partisans was a little low, but before the video he had both time and momentum (with support for Johnson falling) to reach historically typical levels of partisan support.
We surveyed Republican voters right after the second debate. His support is low.
We asked two questions immediately after the debate to assess how loyal Republican voters are to their candidate:
- What did you learn/confirm from the tapes of Trump with Access Hollywood?
- Which candidate has the more presidential temperament?
After correcting our estimates for non-response bias inherent in convenience samples such as ours (for more on our methodology, see here, data collected using Pollfish), we find that a small but meaningful fraction of Republicans are deeply concerned about the candidate. That will severely limit his ability to expand his support, which he needs to win on Nov. 8.
While 84 percent of Republican voters think Trump just “participates/participated in lewd locker-room banter,” 16 percent of Republican voters believe, in light of the Access Hollywood video, that he potentially sexually assaults/assaulted women. That 16 percent is highly correlated with the 13 to 16 percent of Republicans who already said they would not vote for Trump. If Republicans rethink their view of Trump’s comments in light of evidence emerging in recent days suggesting sexual misconduct by the candidate, further defections are possible.
But a much more important test suggests a gloomier picture of Trump’s standing with his Republican base. Twenty percent of Republicans believe that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has a more presidential temperament than Trump. That’s sizably higher than the 13 percent who said so just after the first debate. Even more staggeringly, only 35 percent of Republican voters – not even close to half of the Republican coalition – say that Donald Trump has the more presidential temperament. That’s an unprecedented level of disloyalty toward a major party candidate.
We did not see any increase in Republicans saying they would cross over to vote for Clinton. But all this suggests that Trump has reached his maximum support from Republicans. He may even lose some in the coming weeks. This is particularly worrisome for Trump, as he is already 7 percentage points down nationally, and more than 100 electoral votes down in most forecasts. If he cannot gain his own party’s average level of support for presidential candidates, it is extremely unlikely he can gain more from independent or Democratic voters.
Trump’s rhetoric has nevertheless undermined support for U.S. democracy
While Trump is very unlikely to win the election, the potential that his rhetoric has cast a cloud over the next administration is strong. From championing the birther movement to delegitimize President Obama, to his unfounded claims that the election will be rigged, Trump has pushed the idea the voting system is not reliably translating the will of eligible voters.
This is resonating with voters. A majority of Republican voters, almost 54 percent, say that they do not trust the results of the upcoming election, regardless of outcome. Surprisingly, that number is also high among Democrats, approaching 40 percent.
Trump’s chances of winning the election rapidly approach negligible, but his negative impact on the democracy promises to carry forward into the next administration.
Sam Corbett-Davies is a PhD candidate at Stanford University in computer science. Find him on Twitter @scorbettdavies.
David Rothschild is an economist at Microsoft Research. Find him on Twitter @DavMicRot.