There are two key voter demographics which presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump needs in his path to the presidency: independents and white voters without a four-year college degree. And according to a new Washington Post / ABC News poll, those are two significant groups with whom he’s losing ground. If Trump can't hang onto — let alone add — voters from these groups, could it seriously hinder his general election odds?
The poll, published Wednesday, isn't promising. It shows Trump with the highest unfavorable ratings he’s had since he announced his campaign a year ago. Seven out of 10 surveyed do not think he will "make America great again." More specifically, it shows that among independents, his net favorability ratings — meaning favorable votes minus unfavorable votes — slipped from -19 to -38. And perhaps most interestingly of all, among white voters without a four-year college degree, his net favorability has “flipped." It went from +14 just two months ago to -7.
For context, Clinton did better with independents but worse with white voters without a four-year college degree. That group is not her bread and butter — but, arguably, it is his. A similar poll from late May showed that Trump was the choice for 65 percent of white Americans without a four-year college degree; only 25 percent went for Clinton.
The data for this latest poll was collected between June 8 and June 12 — which raises an immediate and obvious question of whether Trump’s repellent, myopic response (“Appreciate the congrats …”) to the Orlando massacre played any role in the results. The Washington Post acknowledged that’s it’s hard to say for sure at this early stage, noting that, “While interviews were conducted before and after the Orlando shooting, results from Sunday showed no significant differences from previous days, though it will take several days to know whether the attack and political aftermath impact candidates' standing.”
According to the poll, despite the fact that one Republican holdout after another has caved and meekly declared their loyalty to the reality TV star / business mogul, Trump is also losing steam within the GOP overall. The Washington Post noted that among Republicans, “an even higher 34 percent express unfavorable views of Trump, reversing about half of the gains Trump made from April (42 percent unfavorable) to May (28 percent)." Moreover, it's worth noting that Trump's Orlando comments drew wide bipartisan condemnation, so his numbers could prove even worse with Republicans in future surveys.
It's important to bear in mind that this is just one poll. Still, it could be a very telling one. So many times before, we’ve heard journalists and pundits announce that this is it, that he’s losing ground, that "Recent Comment X" was just so disgusting that everyone finally took notice. And because of that, it's easy to become inured and dismiss notions that Trump's improbably successful campaign is starting to break down.
But we really haven't seen Trump lose ground with white voters who don't have a four-year college degree quite like this. And despite his heavy flirtation with so-called Bernie Bros, independents are increasingly disenchanted as well — at the exact moment Trump needs to be pulling them away from the Vermont senator's campaign.
If Trump is losing ground with key components of his own base, maybe we can hope that the next time political analysts sound the death knell for his electability, it will be for real. Maybe.
Image: Bustle/Dawn Foster