26 October 2016

Donald Trump is Not Such a Bad Candidate

It's been a bizarre election.

This graph might depict as simply as any how unique Trump is.

As of 24 October 2012, Romney had received 37 endorsements from major newspapers. 4 years later, Trump had received 1. One.

Politico adds smaller newspapers to this tally. By their count, the endorsements run like this:
Clinton: 200+
Not Trump: ~12
Not Clinton: 1
No endorsement: 38
Trump: 6

By Politico's count, twice as many newspapers told their readers to vote for anyone but Trump as told their readers to vote for Trump. And half of the newspapers to endorse Trump during the primaries were either owned by his son-in-law or were the National Enquirer. While he has struggled to get endorsements from newspapers not owned by Sheldon Adelson, as of 1 November the KKK's official newspaper endorsed Trump.

In addition, historically rare or unique endorsements went against him. USA Today had never before endorsed a candidate in their 40+ year history. They still haven't but they did endorse any candidate but Trump. The Atlantic endorses a presidential candidate about once per century. In 1860 they endorsed Lincoln and in 1964 they endorsed Johnson. This year they endorsed Clinton. Foreign Affairs is 40-some years old and has never before endorsed a candidate but this year they endorsed Clinton.

It's more personal than mere newspapers. Not a single living Secretary of State endorses Trump. Only one of six living nominees for the Republican presidency endorse him. And all former presidents - Republican and Democrats - oppose him.

These endorsements are partly about his outrageously sexist comments but mostly about his incoherent policies. His budget will explode the deficit but he dismisses that because he'll make GDP grow at 4%. (It has averaged 2% per capita for just about the entirety of the post-Civil War period.) He'll ban immigrants based on a religious test but that's okay because they're just Muslims. He will repeal NAFTA and other trade agreements, setting off a trade war that will end badly on both sides but with casualties in the form of lost jobs and higher prices. He'll disband NATO and cooperate with Putin. And he seems fairly ambivalent about the democratic process itself, the first candidate in history to both promise to jail his opponent (well, first candidate outside of banana republics and autocracies in developing nations) and refuse to accept the results of a democratic vote. And to top it off, he's attacked leaders of his own party, turning his supporters against them when he wants revenge for a perceived offense, starting what is essentially a civil war within the GOP.

So what's most bizarre of all? It doesn't seem to make a huge difference in his poll numbers.

Based on the latest from fivethirtyeight - which essentially averages dozens of reputable polls, adjusting for their historic bias and methodology - Trump now has 44% of the popular vote. This puts him ahead of George H. Bush in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996 and only slightly behind John McCain in 2008. 44% is not good but it is not that far behind George W. Bush's 47.9% in 2000, which was enough to win the electoral vote (in spite of losing the popular vote).

He compares even more favorably to Democratic candidates.

His 44% puts him ahead of McGovern in 1972, Carter in 1980 (in his re-election run) , Mondale in 1984, and Clinton in 1992 (in his first run).  He's doing better than 4 of the last eleven Democrats who ran for the presidency.

You might think that Trump is easily the worst candidate in modern times. Based on polls just 2 weeks out from election day, you're wrong. The data suggests that he doesn't upset Americans as much as half a dozen of the candidates they've seen since the modern primaries began. (And 3 of those 6 actually sat in the Oval Office.) That might just be the oddest thing about this bizarre election.

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