Posted on September 29, 2016

‘Missing’ White Voters Could Elect Trump. But First They Need To Register.

David Wasserman, FiveThirtyEight, September 29, 2016

Here’s a scary stat for Democrats: In 2012, President Obama won re-election by almost 5 million votes, but about 47 million eligible white voters without a college degree–including 24 million men–didn’t bother to vote. In 2016, these nonvoters are part of the demographic that is most strongly in favor of Donald Trump.

If Trump rouses even a fraction of these notoriously disaffected Americans–like this grease-smudged, 61-year-old first-time voter in western Pennsylvania–he could surge to victory. There’s just one catch: If we’re on the cusp of a blue-collar Great Awakening, it’s not yet showing up in the registration data.

Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day, as good a time as any to pick apart the potential 2016 electorate. The Census estimates that in 2012 there were 215 million voting-age citizens, of whom 153 million were registered to vote (roughly 129 million votes were ultimately cast that year). Just under 153 million of the eligible citizens were non-Hispanic whites, of whom 112 million were registered and 98 million voted.1

However, there was almost certainly an enormous turnout gap between whites with and without a college degree. While the Census does break down its turnout data by educational attainment, it doesn’t subdivide that information by race. However, it does estimate that 77 percent of all eligible voters with at least a bachelor’s degree voted in 2012, compared to 55 percent of eligible voters without a bachelor’s degree. Among men without a bachelor’s degree, just 53 percent voted.

Using a modeling technique incorporating Census data and actual reported votes,2 I’ve estimated that the vast majority of these non-college nonvoters–47.1 million–were white. These white no-shows–whom Sean Trende at RealClearPolitics has written extensively about–represent an enormous opportunity for Trump.

This demographic cohort, which last showed up in large numbers when Bill Clinton and Ross Perot first ran in 1992 but which apparently didn’t feel any affinity for Obama or Mitt Romney in 2012, dwarfs the pool of 11.5 million Latino nonvoters Hillary Clinton hopes to motivate to the polls. {snip}

If Trump were able to activate merely one of every eight of these “missing whites” to vote for him, he would wipe out Obama’s 2012 margins in three states–Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania–and win both the Electoral College and the popular vote. If he were able to activate one of every five, he could add Virginia, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire.