Donald Trump’s Crucial Pillar of Support, White Men, Shows Weakness

Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times, August 18, 2016

Donald J. Trump’s support among white men, the linchpin of his presidential campaign, is showing surprising signs of weakness that could foreclose his only remaining path to victory in November.

If not reversed, the trend could materialize into one of the most unanticipated developments of the 2016 presidential campaign: That Hillary Clinton, the first woman at the head of a major party ticket and a divisive figure unpopular with many men, ends up narrowing the gender gap that has been a constant of American presidential elections for decades.

Surveys of voters nationwide and in battleground states conducted over the last two weeks showed that Mr. Trump was even with or below where Mitt Romney, the Republican Party nominee four years ago, was with white men when he won that demographic by an overwhelming 27 percentage points.

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There are still nearly three months before Election Day, ample time to shift the dynamics of the race. But the question that Republicans inside and outside the Trump campaign are asking is whether or not the damage Mr. Trump has caused himself over the last few weeks is irreparable.

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Two national polls conducted this month have Mrs. Clinton catching up to Mr. Trump among men over all. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Mrs. Clinton with 43 percent support among men to his 42 percent. A Bloomberg Politics survey put Mr. Trump with a low-single-digit lead among men, according to the pollster who conducted the survey, Ann Selzer.

Mr. Romney relied on his 27-point edge among white men to carry the male vote over all, but Mr. Trump is even more reliant on them because of how poorly he performs with nonwhite voters. If Mr. Trump is only doing as well or worse than Mr. Romney did with white men, he will never make up the votes he is losing among women and nonwhites.

Mr. Trump’s troubles with white men do not end there. The data reveal a huge gap in those who have a college education and those who do not. As Mr. Trump saw in the Republican primaries, he is most vulnerable with white men who have a college education or higher. Mr. Romney won that group, which votes at a higher rate than those without college degrees, by 21 points. Recent national polls have put Mr. Trump’s support with them far lower.

“We’re looking at a margin among college-educated white men for him that’s less than half what Romney won,” said Gary Langer, an independent pollster who conducted an ABC News/Washington Post survey this month that showed Mr. Trump losing over all to Mrs. Clinton. “And that is problematic for Trump given his need to appeal to whites.”

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William H. Frey, a demographics expert with the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan think tank, conducted several simulations that tried to determine how much the turnout among white men without college educations would have to increase for Mr. Trump to win. He used the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll of registered voters that had Mrs. Clinton beating Mr. Trump in a nationwide two-way race, 50 percent to 42 percent. It was among the better polls for Mr. Trump lately.

Mr. Frey tested different turnout assumptions, including improbably optimistic ones, like if 99 percent of white, non-college-educated men turned out to vote. None of the chain of events produced a Trump victory.

In fact, even if virtually all of the white, non-college-educated men eligible to vote did so, Mr. Frey found, Mrs. Clinton would still win the popular vote by 1.1 million.

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White voters were 88 percent of the electorate in the 1980 election, a figure that has declined a few percentage points every four years since then. By 2012, the white vote was down to 72 percent. Most estimates for 2016 put it at or below 70 percent.

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