A Quinnipiac University poll released a few days ago asked voters this question: “In the 2020 general election for president, if Donald Trump is the Republican candidate, would you definitely vote for him, consider voting for him, or would you definitely not vote for him?”
54 percent picked “definitely not vote for” Trump.
32 percent picked “definitely vote for” Trump.
12 percent picked “consider voting for” Trump.
Those percentages add up to 98—which, obviously, is almost everybody. The rest either said they “didn’t know” how they would vote in 2020, or they just refused to answer at all.
Let’s compare these numbers with Trump “approvers” and “disapprovers,” as derived by aggregating polls of “likely and registered voters.” (Today’s results as presented by fivethirtyeight.com are shown above.) Having done so, let us draw some lessons and articulate some working hypotheses.
A Foundational Working Hypothesis—and a Metaphysical Possibility
My foundational working hypothesis is that the above numbers are generally accurate. Accurate, that is, in this specific and limited sense: that they accurately reflect the verbal responses that the entire population would give, if and when asked these same questions by another pollster.
That leaves open the metaphysical possibility that a whole bunch of people might be systematically lying to pollsters about their true beliefs and their true intentions.
I do not believe that to be the case, but, yes, it’s a metaphysical possibility.
“Approve” and “disapprove” are broad terms, subject to varying interpretations by people who are asked for their opinions. Moreover, I don’t think we ever “approve” or “disapprove” every single thing about any other human being, including even the Trumpster. So “approving” or “disapproving” requires some weighing and balancing of the good against the bad. How you weigh and balance the good versus the bad in another person depends on your values. And different people have different values.
With that thought in mind, observe that the percentage of people who “disapprove” of Trump corresponds pretty closely to the percentage of people who say they will not vote for Trump in 2020, come hell or high water.
That is to say, around 53 or 54 percent of us.
By contrast, 32 plus 12 adds to 44, which corresponds very closely to the percentage who “approve” Trump.
I am cursed with a logical mind, so I will spell out this conclusion: About one quarter of the people who tell a pollster they “approve” of Trump are not at all sure they will actually vote for him next time.
Even if the 32 percent all turn out at the polls for Trump, and even if the 12 percent who are Trump-cautious also vote for the Trumpster, we still win by about nine or ten points—which implies we also win in the Electoral College.
That’s provided turnout is strong among the 54 percent who definitely won’t vote for Trump.
We may be cautiously optimistic in attitude, but we should still be prudent in our actions. That’s not something I deduce logically from the poll numbers. It’s a conclusion I reach when I read the numbers in light of the dire and tragic consequences that would flow from a second term for Trump.
We badly need to garner lots of votes from the 12 percent. To have a reasonable prospect of doing so, we need to have an accurate understanding of what the hell the 12 percent might be thinking.
I am no advocate of mendacity or hypocrisy. But different people are moved by different arguments. We need to be making truthful and sound arguments that will rev up our base but simultaneously appeal to many of the 12 percent.
These are not necessarily the same truthful arguments that you or I, personally, would find most persuasive.
Trump’s Working Hypothesis
Trump’s working hypothesis—his “theory of the case”—seems to be that some of his support is weak because some of his supporters fear he may not be enough of a racist thug to suit their taste. So he feels a need to remind them constantly that he is, indeed, a racist thug of the first water.
And a need constantly to remind them to be very afraid of people with brown skin and of people who live in cities, not on farms.
That’s what Trump believes. And, you, dear reader—whose life experience differs from mine and whose gut tells you different things than my gut tells me—might believe it, too.
But I am persuaded that Trump’s working hypothesis is a delusion. And that it’s really important that Trump continues to act on that delusion.
I believe that many of the 32 percent surefire Trump voters are people who revel in Trump’s validation of their stone cold racism, and who enjoy congregating together in large numbers so they can bay at the moon in unison.
But logic tells me that if, at this point in time, you are the kind of person who enjoys Nuremburg rallies, then you are already a surefire Trump voter, not a semi-reluctant passenger on the Trump train.
Better Working Hypotheses about the 12 Percent
Here are several related, rational—and possibly correct—explanations of what is going on.
- The 12 percent are comprised, disproportionately of Republican-identifying women, rather than men.
- The 12 percent are comprised, disproportionately, of self-identified Republicans who live in cities or suburbs, not in rural areas.
- As a group, the 12 percent are much more likely to vote for Trump if he dials down his horseshit, and much more likely not to vote for him if he dials it up.
- Working assumption number four is that the 12 percent, as a group, are more affluent than the 32 percent, as a group. Being fairly affluent, their health care situation is, mostly, under control. That being the case, they are fairly susceptible to arguments that Democrats will disrupt the health care system to their considerable prejudice, at least in the short run.
- Many of these people hated and despised Hillary Clinton—for reasons good, bad, or indifferent. We are much more likely to garner their votes if we offer up someone who is inherently likeable and who does not suffer from significant character defects.
- How the economy is doing will strongly influence how many of the 12 percent hold their noses and vote for Trump.