Darrell Berkheimer: Is Trump’s influence overstated?
Former President Donald Trump denied he was planning to start a third party when he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference last Sunday. He called it “fake news” even though he was the one who first said he was thinking about the idea.
Apparently, someone was successful in making him realize that all he would do is split the conservative vote. In addition, some sources are beginning to indicate his influence is waning.
But it was only a little more than a week before CPAC when headlines and stories reported a survey revealing that nearly half — 46% — of Republicans said they would join a new party formed by Trump.
At CPAC, however, he let everybody know that he simply wants to ramrod the GOP instead. And that might be a big deal for Democrats if it spells continued dissension and a decline for the GOP.
So let’s do a bit of critical thinking to put that 46% support of Republicans for Trump into perspective. We’ll start by citing the fairly consistent statistics revealed by surveys taken after the 2016 and 2020 elections.
A Gallup poll this past December revealed that only 25% of voters identified themselves as Republicans, while 31% said they were Democrats, and 41% reported they are independent.
Those figures can’t be much closer than the ones reported four years earlier after the 2016 elections, when 26% said they were Republicans compared to 29% Democrats and 42% independent.
Now let’s look at the details of the survey on how many Republicans will stick with Trump. It was a Suffolk University-USA Today poll that reported 46% of Republicans said they would shift to a Trump party. So just how many voters does that really represent?
If we take the 46% times the 25% or 26% who identify as Republicans, the result is less than 12% of the total voters who indicated they are willing to follow Trump.
But because only 1,000 Republicans were surveyed, and we’re often told that the percentage of error on most surveys is as much as 3% to 4%, that could mean as many as 50% Republicans prefer Trump as their leader. But that’s still only about 13% of all the voters.
And when we stack that 12% or 13% next to 31% Democrats and 41% independent, that indicates to me that our national media is assigning much more influence to a potential Trump-led faction than what is actually there.
I also doubt how many independents will continue to support Trump — even though a substantial percentage might prefer voting for Republicans. The fact they already prefer a centrist category indicates few can be counted as Trump extremists.
So again, let’s not attach more influence to a far-right Trump group beyond what they might really have.
Instead, that high percentage of those who list themselves as independent serves to indicate that many voters would like to see a third party gain traction. I believe a centrist party — free from extremists — is sorely wanted.
Now let’s throw into the mix how younger voters, ages 18-29, cast ballots in record numbers this last election, as reported by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning. Their turnout was 55% this past November, compared to only 44% in 2016.
President Joe Biden received 61% of their votes, and those younger voters have been given credit for Biden’s win in the battleground states.
Those figures provide a pretty good indication that not many in the younger crowd are going to be jumping onto the Trump bandwagon.
Their top priorities were listed as COVID-19, first; the economy and jobs, second; and climate change, third. But it was speculated that the economy/jobs and climate change issues might share the top two positions after the pandemic is subdued.
Forgiving a portion of student loan debt and more money for public transportation also are high on the young adults wish lists. The poll by the center added that 84% want transportation improvements.
Those priorities do not bode well for a Trump revival, when his base contains climate change deniers, plus the Trump administration’s failure to fulfill his promise of five years ago to initiate a huge infrastructure program.
Also, a College Pulse report, produced last August in partnership with the Knight Foundation, revealed that less than one in five students had a favorable view of Trump. That, of course, was five months prior to the attack on our national Capitol.
Another indication that Trump’s influence may be waning came from a Wall Street Journal editorial published Monday. It said, “Mr. Trump’s base of support means he will play an important role in the GOP. But as the Biden months roll on and the policy consequences of the 2020 defeat become stark, perhaps the party’s grassroots will begin to look past the Trump era to a new generation.”
And finally, I suspect the Trump bandwagon will experience a certain amount of attrition as he deals with his many legal problems and his huge debt.
All of this fosters my conclusion that the national media is guilty of feeding the illusions of Trump and his staunch supporters on the power they might wield in the GOP’s future. And it’s a continuation of the national media’s over-indulgence on Trump’s every move and utterance. Even Twitter and Facebook finally saw the need to clamp the lid on that.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He has eight books available through Amazon. His sixth, “Essays from The Golden Throne,” includes 60 columns published by The Union, plus a dozen western travel and photo essays. Contact him at email@example.com.
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