Could a Trump-Clinton race be the lowest turnout election ever?

I’ve had a feeling for some time now that the early head to head polls which show Hillary Clinton sliding in to an easy victory over Donald Trump might be a bit of a stretch. First off, six weeks is an eternity in politics. Six months is forever and you never know what will happen next week to turn the election on its head. There’s also what we’ve come to know as “The Trump Factor” to consider. If Donald Trump stays on his current track and secures 1,237 delegates and the nomination, solid predictions may be hard to come by because most everything predicted about the guy since last spring has turned out to be wrong. But still, one of the predictions that both Trump, his detractors and even his supporters have claimed all along was that if he is the one to face off against Hillary, the turnout will be Yuge. The logic from the Trump side is that he brings in all sorts of new voters, including first timers and disaffected Reagan Democrats. His opponents note spikes in registration among Hispanic voters and women, presumably with the intention of showing up to vote against him. It should make for one heck of a stellar example of democracy in action, with previously unseen numbers of Americans lining up to participate in our representative democracy.


It’s enough to bring a smile to the face of the most hardened cynic.

But what if we’re all wrong? What if this pair of candidates does the exact opposite and inspires everyone to get up on the morning of November 8th, get dressed, step outside their door and just go to a movie instead? The new poll released today from Rasmussen seems to hint that this might be the case.

Nearly one-in-four voters say they will stay home or vote third party if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the major party presidential candidates.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely U.S. Voters finds Trump and Clinton tied at 38% each. But 16% say they would vote for some other candidate if the presidential election comes down to those two, while six percent (6%) would stay home. Only two percent (2%) are undecided given those options.

The survey questions are here.

These numbers are simply toxic on both sides. Among Republicans, 21% are saying they would either stay home or go third party, while 10% say they would vote for Hillary. On the Dem side, 14% would bail on Clinton and 11% would vote for Trump in protest. For the independents, a full third of them claim they will skip the election or go third party. (It’s worth noting that of those still willing to vote, Trump is leading Clinton in this category 38-27.)

As we see in nearly every mid-term (and particularly in special elections which take place in odd numbered years), low turnout elections are notoriously hard to predict. The smaller the pool, the easier it is for an unexpected factor to drive down or pull up one side or the other by a sufficient margin to flip the outcome. If all of the Rasmussen respondents are telling the truth, this could be a wild and woolly ride for an unsettled and largely turned off electorate.


That’s a mighty big if, though. I’ve said this here before, though it draws much derision from the #NeverTrump folks, but I’m writing a lot of this off to much larger than normal, contentious primary bluster. No matter how much you may talk about the imminent demise of conservatism, the number of people who will actually stay home or vote for Hillary Clinton among actual Republicans and conservatives is, I predict, far, far smaller than you might hope. And the Democrats may have a major uprising of The Yutes who support Bernie on their hands when it comes to a possible Clinton Dynasty, but when the actual election rolls around I doubt they’ll sit on their hands and whistle while Trump walks away with it all.

Personally, I’ll wait until the dust settles from the conventions and the ache of the primary nastiness begins to dull. Let’s have Rasmussen run these numbers again then, and if they’re even remotely close to the same then maybe I’ll start believing it.


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David Strom 5:20 PM | April 19, 2024