Cómo los demócratas podrían atraer a los votantes indecisos en 2020
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP has ratcheted up his race-baiting rhetoric in recent weeks. In July, Mr Trump tweeted that several non-white Democratic members of the House of Representatives should“go back”to the countries they came from. In fact, three of the four congresswomen were born in America and all are American citizens. Weeks later, spurred on by a Fox News segment, Mr Trump characterised a congressional district inBaltimoreas rat-infested and dangerous. It is no coincidence that the majority of the people living there are African-American. These attacks have been viewed by many as racist and divisive, but Mr Trump’s White House staff and campaign team have identified them as essential to his re-election. While anti-immigration voters were a key part of Mr Trump’s coalition in the 2016 presidential election, their allegiance in 2020 is not guaranteed.
In a new report from the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group (VSG), a collection of public opinion researchers, political scientist Lee Drutman finds that anti-immigration voters aren’t as monolithically pro-Trump as many believe. Their support for Democrats and Republicans is split between those who favour less government intervention in the economy, and those who hold more left-wing, interventionist economic views. According to Mr Drutman, these contrasts have only grown more stark since Mr Trump’s election. He estimates that Republicans have lost 23% of anti-immigration, economically-left voters since 2016—and since the group makes up 19% of the electorate, according to the VSG data, such losses are significant and potentially game-changing. There is some good news for Republicans. The Grand Old Party has made small gains among pro-immigration, economically right-leaning Americans. However, this group makes up just 8% of all voters, so Republicans cannot look to them to recoup their losses.
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While anti-immigration, pro-intervention voters have fled the Republican Party writ large, they have also turned on the president himself. Although polling is hardly reliable when used to predict elections that are as far away as the 2020 contest, Mr Drutman’s analysis reveals that Mr Trump is lagging behind his 2016 vote share by ten percentage points today. The decline has come disproportionately from Americans who hold these seemingly contradictory views on economics and immigration—who he calls “cross-pressured” voters. But many of these cross-pressured voters, as well as 11% of the overall electorate, remain uncommitted to any party.
Democrats might appeal to these undecided, cross-pressured voters by focusing their campaign not on Mr Trump, immigration or the politics of race, but on economics. Some candidates are already taking this path. Elizabeth Warren, a senator for Massachusetts, has focused her campaign on economic inequality and taxes for the super-rich, for example, and released a “Plan for Economic Patriotism” that promises to deliver “faster growth, stronger American industry, and more good American jobs”. Such messaging could appeal to the voters who were attracted to Mr Trump’s “America First” economic nationalism last time around. Democrats have also focused on health-care reform in their 2020 campaigns so far, a key priority for anti-immigration, pro-economic intervention voters.
Any candidate’s success will come from their ability to woo these cross-pressured voters to their side. According to Catalist, a left-leaning political data firm, Democrats did just this in 2018. Their analysis of turnout and vote choice revealed that at least 89% of Democratic gains between 2016 and last year’s mid-term elections was due to Republican voters switching sides.
Still, voters might not replicate their 2018 behaviour. For one thing, mid-term cycles are famous for their violent swings against the party in power, and are scarcely predictive of a party’s performance in the following presidential election. For another, in America’s hyper-partisan environment, the Democratic Party’s eventual presidential nominee is likely to become less popular as election day nears and more people—especially Republicans—hear about them. This would make them less comparable to the down-ballot Democratic candidates that won big in the mid-terms, and more susceptible to partisan divides in the national electorate.
It is not yet clear what the battle lines will be this time around. Pundits basing their predictions for the 2020 election on voting patterns from 2016 could run into trouble if the past does not predict the future. Others reading too much into the 2018 contest could suffer from learning lessons that do not translate to presidential cycles. Prognosticators should only bet the farm on data from the current race.