It’s very hard to get a majority of the country to vote for you if a majority of the country thinks it’s important you not win your election.
Donald Trump likes to highlight the fact that he received more votes during the primary than any other Republican candidate in history, skipping over the fact that more votes were cast for other candidates than were cast for him. Trump’s nomination is the result of not needing a majority in order to win, thanks to the scattered field. He was able to build up a nearly insurmountable lead in the delegate count by winning states with less than 50 percent of the vote. It was a narrow path, but he made it through.
That’s harder in the general election, when there are fewer candidates in the game. You don’t need a majority of the votes to win, of course; in three of the past six elections the winning candidate has not topped 50 percent of the vote. But you need to get close to 50 percent, unless there’s a strong third-party candidate. Which means that the fact that nearly 6-in-10 Americans think it’s very or somewhat important that Trump not be elected is something of a stumbling block.
That figure comes from new polling from Monmouth University. Hillary Clinton has a wide lead in the poll, which certainly plays a role. But 57 percent of respondents say it’s important that Trump lose — including 47 percent who say it’s very important that it happen. By contrast, 49 percent of respondents to the poll say it’s important Clinton lose.
What’s amazing is that the numbers include decent chunks of each’s own party. Thirteen percent of Democrats say it’s very or somewhat important Clinton not get elected — and a full fifth of Republicans say that about Trump.
There are big splits in other groups, too. About 6-in-10 women say it’s important Trump lose, as do 7-in-10 nonwhite voters. More than half of respondents in states that backed Mitt Romney by more than 12 points in 2012 say that it’s important Trump not be elected president, compared to 43 percent of those in solidly blue states who say the same about Clinton.
Over the course of the general election, we’ve repeatedly seen numbers indicating that half the country would never vote for Trump. In March, 17 percent of Republicans said they’d never vote for him, with more than half of voters overall saying the same thing. In August, 51 percent said they wouldn’t do so.
The Monmouth results suggest that only 43 percent of Americans don’t think it’s important to some extent that Trump not be elected. (He gets about 41 percent in the horserace question, well behind Clinton.) Forty-three percent has been enough to win the presidency twice in the last century, in 1968 and 1996, both years when strong third-party candidates ran.
It would have been about enough to win the GOP nomination this year: Trump got under 45 percent of the vote in his push to be the Republican nominee. It will almost certainly not be enough to win the presidency in 2016.