Like many political junkies, I’ve been fascinated the past few days by news about the June 23 “Brexit” referendum, in which roughly 52 percent of UK voters opted to Leave the European Union, while just 48 percent voted to Remain. The regional breakdown of the vote is fascinating, and the Financial Times published an excellent series of charts on “the demographics that drove Brexit” in this post by John Burn-Murdoch.
Leaving the European Union would hurt the UK economy in several ways, but that outcome isn’t a foregone conclusion. David Allen Green is the leading voice speculating that the UK government could disregard a vote for Brexit, because unlike a 2011 vote on electoral reform, the June 23 referendum “is advisory rather than mandatory.” On June 24, Green argued noted that Prime Minister David Cameron did not file the formal Article 50 notification that sets in motion a process for leaving the European Union. British Law Professor Mark Elliott speculated along similar lines here. Cameron had vowed to respect the results of Thursday’s referendum, but he will resign soon, and his successor will not be bound by his promises.
In this country, most of the commentary about Brexit has focused on whether a result that shocked UK elites means Donald Trump is more likely to win the November election. Panicky Democrats, please know that an unexpected result across the pond does not change the underlying dynamic of the U.S. presidential race.
The UK result was within the margin of error of pre-referendum polls that showed a close race. In contrast, Hillary Clinton has led Trump in every head to head national poll for more than a month now. Several polls, most recently ABC/Washington Post and NBC/Wall Street Journal, have shown her lead growing over the last few weeks. The U.S. electorate has a lower proportion of non-Hispanic white voters than the UK does.
The electoral college also favors Clinton. I don’t believe she will win as many electoral votes as in some recent projections, but remember: Trump needs to flip some states President Barack Obama carried twice. At this writing, he is not well-positioned to win any states Obama carried twice. But even if you give the Republican North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, and Virginia, which Larry Sabato sees leaning Democratic now, Clinton would still have more than 270 electoral votes. By the way, the president’s approval rating in the national polling average has moved above 50 percent for the first time in more than three years, Paul Brandus observed today. Obama will not be a drag on Clinton’s campaign the way President George W. Bush was for John McCain in 2008.
I’ve seen no evidence that Trump can draw a Democratic crossover vote large enough to compensate for the lifelong Republicans who are rejecting him. The Des Moines Register recently carried an op-ed by Des Moines native Doug Elmets, a former adviser to Ronald Reagan who will cast his first-ever vote for a Democratic president this year. Trump’s poor fundraising so far suggests that he won’t be able to fund as much GOTV in the swing states as Clinton will.
I enclose below excerpts from this piece by Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray on why “Brexit Is Not The Same Thing As Trump.”
This post is an open thread: all topics welcome. UPDATE: Added below a new television commercial Clinton’s campaign will run on national cable networks to contrast “the reality of the Brexit vote with Trump’s response on his Scotland trip,” which focused on his own golf course.
From a June 24 article by Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray, “Brexit Is Not The Same Thing As Trump.”
“The markets discounting a Brexit were more about elite biases than what the data actually showed,” [Patrick] Ruffini said. “Likewise, in the Republican primary, there was a widespread expectation that voters would ‘come home’ to a normal candidate. But through the polls, voters were telling us where ‘home’ was for them. Elites chose to ignore it.”
“So many of these Trump voters had never actually voted in a Republican primary, making it difficult to project their behavior,” [Frank] Luntz said.
But that was the primary. This is the general, and Trump has been consistently behind Clinton in head-to-head polling matchups. And now the polls aren’t measuring the Republican primary electorate, but the general election electorate, which includes large blocs of voters hostile to Trump, like college-educated women.
Trump is also now moving from the primary — dominated by white, older voters — to a much more diverse general electorate. And diversity can play a role in outcomes: Nonwhite voters in the U.K. voted Remain — but the U.K. is significantly less diverse than the United States.
And the U.S. presidential election is very different from a purely issue-based referendum.
“The forces that drove the Leave campaign are very similar to the forces that drove Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who worked on Marco Rubio’s campaign this cycle. “The difference is the Brexit did not have a candidate — it was simply a policy choice. And a huge part of a vote for president involves an evaluation of who has the leadership and character to lead the country and the free world, and that is a very, very large component of a presidential choice.”
Hillary Clinton campaign ad “Tested”: