Presidential Polls show Trump and Clinton nearly tied. What does it mean?
After having become the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, the latest polls show that Donald Trump has received a bump in the polls, and is nearly tied with Hillary Clinton. Since Hillary held a large, if not commanding, lead over Trump just a couple of weeks ago, this has many Clinton supporters in near panic. What does this recent surge by Donald really mean?
For one thing upon becoming either party’s standard-bearer, candidates usually receive a bump in the polls. The same thing happens following the party conventions in the summer. These latter poll jumps are most often short-lived as one party convention is followed in short order by the other’s.
However, understanding the bump that the winning candidate gets in the polls upon becoming a party’s presumptive nominee is a bit more complicated, since there is often a significant period when the primary races are over between parties. Let’s take look at the mechanics of this kind of poll bump. During the primary campaign, a significant number of supporters of the various candidates identify with their favorite hopeful, and that often translates into “hate” feelings towards their candidate’s competitors. At such time, they are unlikely to answer favorably pollsters questions about supporting their opponents. Once the race for their party’s primary race is over, bit by bit, most of the party faithful unite behind the likely nominee since their strong party identification leads them to hop on his, or her, bandwagon as the “lesser of two evils.” Given the highly polarized nature of politics that exists now this effect may be more pronounced than usual. The high stakes involved with a Supreme Court nomination hanging in the winds, in the face of a 4-4 ideological stalemate on the present court, likely adds pressure on strong party identifiers to unify behind the party’s nominee.
On the other hand, while the campaign for the Democratic nomination continues, this kind of pressure to unify behind the leader, in this case Hillary Clinton, has yet to occur. I would expect that once the California primary is over, Bernie Sanders will strongly urge his supporters to rally behind Clinton, and for her polls in result to receive a bump as well. Calculations of how great a relative bump this will be is difficult to assess right now because of the unusually high number of independents having taken stands for Trump and Sanders. Right now the Trump-independents show up in the polls for their man. It’s not as clear how the Sanders-independents support will transfer to Hillary since, reportedly, about 8 to 10 percent of them are voting for Sanders based on his anti-establishment stance, and some will transfer their support to Trump. Remember, without the strong Democratic Party identification, these Bernie-indpendents may find it less compelling to rally behind the very candidate that they had been so strongly opposed to in the primaries.
There is another factor affecting the calculation of how many of the other Republican hopefuls’ supporters will rally behind Trump, is the insulting vitriolic that Trump heaped upon their favored candidate. Some of the wounds he caused by that vitriol may be more difficult than usual to overcome. For example, both Bush presidents have indicated quite clearly that they will not be voting for Trump. As the only Republican Presidents since 1988, their refusal to support Trump may well prove significant. As if to emphasize the Bush camps’ contumely toward Trump, former Bush 43 staffer, Tony Fratto, a short while ago described Donald Trump as an unelectable psychopath.
This figures to be one weird election. And an exceptionally important one as well.