POLITICAL CONNECTIONS

Trump Has Brexit-Style Voters, But Not Enough of Them

The U.S. shares the U.K.’s economic and demographic anxieties, but a smaller proportion of whites will prevent a political earthquake.

Donald Trump speaking last month in Lynden, Wash.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
Ronald Brownstein
Add to Briefcase
Ronald Brownstein
June 29, 2016, 8 p.m.

When United King­dom voters last week ap­proved a ref­er­en­dum to leave the European Uni­on, they un­der­scored how an era of un­re­lent­ing eco­nom­ic and demo­graph­ic change is shift­ing the ax­is of polit­ics across much of the in­dus­tri­al­ized world from class to cul­ture.

Con­trary to much ini­tial spec­u­la­tion, the vic­tory for the U.K. “Leave” cam­paign didn’t point to­ward vic­tory in the U.S. pres­id­en­tial elec­tion for Don­ald Trump, who is voicing very sim­il­ar ar­gu­ments against glob­al­iz­a­tion and im­mig­ra­tion; the Brit­ish res­ults, in fact, poin­ted up the obstacles fa­cing his agenda of de­fens­ive na­tion­al­ism in the vastly more di­verse U.S. elect­or­ate.

But the Brexit ref­er­en­dum did crys­tal­lize deep­en­ing cul­tur­al fault lines in U.K. polit­ics that are also likely to shape the con­test between Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton. In that way, the res­ults pre­fig­ure both a con­tinu­ing long-term re­align­ment in the elect­or­al base of each Amer­ic­an party—and a pos­sible near-term re­shuffle of the tip­ping-point states in pres­id­en­tial polit­ics.

Both geo­graph­ic­ally and demo­graph­ic­ally, the Brit­ish ref­er­en­dum split the U.K. along lines fa­mil­i­ar in Amer­ica. An ex­tens­ive Elec­tion Day sur­vey by Lord Mi­chael Ash­croft, a Brit­ish poll­ster, found that the “Leave” cam­paign car­ried over three-fifths of those without four-year col­lege de­grees, a com­par­able num­ber of seni­ors, and a nar­row ma­jor­ity of all whites. Elec­tion res­ults showed the cam­paign amass­ing big mar­gins out­side of ma­jor cit­ies. The cam­paign to re­main won over two-thirds of non­whites, about three-fifths of col­lege gradu­ates, and big ma­jor­it­ies among young­er and urb­an voters. In Lon­don, which re­cently elec­ted one of the West­ern world’s first Muslim may­ors, 60 per­cent voted to stay.

All of this rep­lic­ates Amer­ic­an pat­terns. Demo­crats now rely on an urb­an­ized co­ali­tion of mil­len­ni­als, minor­it­ies, and so­cially lib­er­al col­lege-edu­cated and single whites (es­pe­cially wo­men). Re­pub­lic­ans thrive among older, non-col­lege-edu­cated and re­li­giously de­vout whites, es­pe­cially out­side of ma­jor cit­ies. In 2012, Pres­id­ent Obama car­ried less than one-fourth of Amer­ica’s counties; he won few­er counties than any pres­id­en­tial win­ner since at least 1920. But be­cause Obama so dom­in­ated the na­tion’s pop­u­la­tion cen­ters, he tri­umphed by 5 mil­lion votes.

Not only was the dis­tri­bu­tion of the Brit­ish vote fa­mil­i­ar, so was the mo­tiv­a­tion. Ash­croft’s poll found that Leave voters were char­ac­ter­ized by pess­im­ism about the next gen­er­a­tion’s eco­nom­ic pro­spects, and deep hos­til­ity to im­mig­ra­tion, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, and the chan­ging role of wo­men. Fully 80 per­cent of Leave voters said im­mig­ra­tion neg­at­ively af­fected the U.K. That ex­actly equaled the per­cent­age of Trump sup­port­ers who called im­mig­ra­tion more a bur­den than be­ne­fit in a ma­jor new na­tion­al poll. Stan­ley Green­berg, a long­time poll­ster both for U.S. Demo­crats and the U.K. La­bour Party, says a post-ref­er­en­dum sur­vey he con­duc­ted for the Brit­ish Trades Uni­on Con­gress found that among those who voted to leave, “the biggest ra­tionale, and the strongest ar­gu­ments, were op­pos­i­tion to im­mig­ra­tion.”

In these ways, the Brit­ish vote showed the power of the Trump-like anti-im­mig­ra­tion, anti-glob­al­iz­a­tion ar­gu­ment for white, older, non­urb­an, and non-col­lege-edu­cated voters who feel mar­gin­al­ized by eco­nom­ic and cul­tur­al change. The key dif­fer­ence is that those voters rep­res­ent much less of the U.S. elect­or­ate. In par­tic­u­lar, while whites com­prised about 90 per­cent of Brit­ish voters, they will likely cast only around 70 per­cent of Amer­ic­an bal­lots. In the U.K., Ash­croft found 53 per­cent of whites voted to leave; be­cause Trump faces so much op­pos­i­tion from minor­it­ies, if he wins the same per­cent­age of whites he will lose in a land­slide. He will likely need well over 60 per­cent of whites to win.

If any­thing, the res­ist­ance to the Leave cam­paign’s nativ­ism from col­lege-edu­cated and urb­an U.K. whites un­der­lined the head­winds Trump will face reach­ing that num­ber. Since 2000, every Demo­crat­ic pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate has run bet­ter among col­lege-edu­cated than non-col­lege-edu­cated whites. But even so, in mod­ern polling tra­cing back to 1952, no Demo­crat­ic pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate has ever car­ried most of those col­lege-edu­cated whites. Yet the last five na­tion­al sur­veys have shown Clin­ton lead­ing Trump among this group. Green­berg pre­dicts that as the GOP is tugged more to­ward the res­ist­ance to im­mig­ra­tion (and di­versity more broadly) by its cul­tur­ally con­ser­vat­ive blue-col­lar wing, more col­lege-edu­cated voters will de­fect, per­haps last­ingly. “They drove their col­lege-edu­cated voters out by the nature of this primary,” he said.

Re­volving around these cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences, the Trump-Clin­ton con­test seems cer­tain to ac­cel­er­ate the two parties’ long-term re-sort­ing in­to a cos­mo­pol­it­an, urb­an-centered Demo­crat­ic co­ali­tion com­fort­able with demo­graph­ic and cul­tur­al changes and a primar­ily non­urb­an tra­di­tion­al­ist Re­pub­lic­an co­ali­tion mostly res­ist­ant to them. That on­go­ing shift’s ef­fect in 2016 may be to re­order the states at the tip­ping point of U.S. elec­tions.

Since 1992, Demo­crats have run bet­ter in older and heav­ily white work­ing-class Rust Belt swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wis­con­sin, Ohio, and Iowa than in young­er and di­verse Sun Belt swing states in­clud­ing Vir­gin­ia, North Car­o­lina, Flor­ida, Col­or­ado, and Nevada. (Over those six elec­tions, Demo­crats have won those Rust Belt states a com­bined 27 times out of 30 chances and the Sun Belt battle­grounds only 13.) But many signs sug­gest that align­ment may start to in­vert this year. With its big His­pan­ic pop­u­la­tion, Flor­ida could be bet­ter ter­rain for Clin­ton than largely blue-col­lar Ohio or even Pennsylvania. And her cam­paign is in­tensely fo­cused on North Car­o­lina, which has voted Demo­crat­ic only once since 1992, while Trump sup­port­ers al­most uni­ver­sally agree that any plaus­ible path to the White House runs through the Rust Belt states Demo­crats have dom­in­ated since then.

The Brexit vote poin­ted to a re­shaped U.K. polit­ic­al or­der that re­volves more around cul­tur­al af­fin­it­ies—par­tic­u­larly at­ti­tudes to­ward im­mig­ra­tion and di­versity—than eco­nom­ic class. The Clin­ton-Trump race is poised to fast-for­ward that same shift across the At­lantic.

What We're Following See More »
“HOLY HELL TO PAY” IF TRUMP FIRES A.G.
Sen. Graham Supporting Sessions
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Sen. Lindsay Graham said he is '100 percent behind' embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and said there would be 'holy hell to pay' if President Donald Trump fires him. Graham also said that if the president went after special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who’s directing the investigation into possible contacts between Trump’s circle and Russia, that could be the 'beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong.'"

Source:
AMiDST COMMS STAFF SHAKEUP
Sanders New WH Press Secretary
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"With little pomp or circumstance, Sarah Huckabee Sanders stepped up to the briefing room podium and got straight to business Friday, reading announcements about "Made in America Week" and a new executive order on defense. Minutes later, newly minted communications director Anthony Scaramucci announced she was formally taking over as White House press secretary. In the aftermath of a chaotic communications staff shakeup at the White House last week, there was little attention paid to a new milestone as Sanders assumed the role."

Source:
JOINT CHIEFS TO KEEP POLICY UNTIL GIVEN DIRECTIONS
No Instructions to Pentagon, No Change in Transgender Policy
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The highest ranking military officer in the country said that the military’s transgender policy won’t actively change until President Trump sends specific directions to the Pentagon. 'There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance,' Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford wrote in a letter."

Source:
TO INVICTUS GAMES IN CANADA
FLOTUS First Trip Solo
5 hours ago
THE LATEST
SCARAMUCCI INSINUATED PRIEBUS LEAKED INFO
Two of Trump’s Top Advisors Feuding
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A long-simmering feud between two of President Trump’s top advisers reached a boiling point Thursday, as White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci publicly insinuated that chief of staff Reince Priebus is a leaker."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login