In a year that anything can happen, anything has happened says John Zogby – the ‘prince of American polling’. With less than six weeks to the U.S. Presidential elections 2016 the polls are working overtime to try and predict who will become President Elect but obviously no one can guarantee anything. BOOM met up with John Zogby in Washington DC as part of the Youth and Politics Tour organized by the U.S. Department of State to understand what is the reason the pollsters themselves are not sure which way the election will go.
Zogby says that elections as a rule are not meant to be close and this one featuring Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, especially not so but it has become a close one. Reinforcing Zogby’s claim, are about ten different polls of which five show Clinton ahead with a lead of 3-4 points while the other five show Trump ahead with a similar margin.
Advantage – Democratic Party
Zogby says that “If you go by history and by demographics, the (any) Democrat candidate comes with an automatic advantage.” He explains that, “The incumbent president Barack Obama is polling at one of his highest approval ratings at about 51% and a democrat can count on 242 electoral college votes simply by showing up for the elections.”
“A look at demographics explains the advantage more – Obama won 74% of total votes cast in 2008 from a white American voter and won a similar number – 71% in 2012. On an average most Democrat candidates have managed about 69% of the white vote while a Republican manages just 57%.” So demographics are against the Republican candidate, says Zogby.
Add to that the U.S. economy is doing better than what it was in 2008 – Obama inherited the global financial crisis which resulted in record unemployment numbers. Today unemployment at 4.9% is half of what is was then. Frustration with the economy is generally the number one dissatisfaction factor that voters have with an incumbent government but in this election this is not the case which means that history too supports the Democrat candidate.
John Zogby then sighs and says – there are multiple advantages ‘a’ democratic candidate comes into this election with but what makes this race close is – two things – the phenomena called Donald Trump and personalities.
The Phenomena Called Donald Trump
Zogby calls the rise of the Donald Trump a recurrence of a trend seen throughout history of “the modern and those fighting against the modern trends.”
He describes it as “A declining white middle class that sees its America which it is accustomed to seeing falling apart.” The predominantly white middle class is undergoing a status anxiety – Zogby says that being middle class is not just financial but it is also a state of mind where the white American families feel that they won’t remain the rich, middle class anymore.
This status anxiety stems from the fact that 37% of American adults who have jobs are getting paid less than what they were getting at a previous job and are not able to keep up with rising costs. So the overpowering sentiment amongst this percentage of people is “Ten years ago my American dream was alive and well. Today, I am afraid of not being middle class and am very afraid for my children.”
The economy has played a huge role where the jobs have come but at a slow pace and those who lost out because of either being in the manufacturing or information technology sector have not seen as big an industry replace the outflow of jobs.
Finally, culturally the ‘What’s happened to my America sentiment is visible through the sheer number of races now visible on America’s streets with Caucasians jostling for space with Chinese, Indians, and Arabs’. “The white Americans look out their window and see Latinos, Arabs, African Americans, Muslims – people who are not like me.” By 2042, the United States is expected to become a non-white majority country.
The ‘What happened to my America’ is also about the U.S’s loss of influence to an extent in the global hierarchy. From being an unchallenged super power to a super power that has gone into places like Iraq, Afghanistan and not been able to change things on the ground. Americans (white and those over 50 years of age) believed that the U.S. was the power that moved things around, and they remember the Cold War – of being right versus wrong but that has changed with the emergence of China and other nations.
Despite the Democratic party candidate having a lot of advantages, there exists a ‘Donald Trump’ phenomena and the polls say the election could go either way. John Zogby says that the biggest draw back that Hillary Clinton faces is the demographic that is not convinced by her. According to the Quinnipiac poll, Clinton is winning just 31% of the 18-34 age group i.e. the millennials, Gary Johnson ( a third party candidate) is at – 29%, Donald Trump is at 26%.
These numbers have been consistently low through out her campaign as the millennials see her as someone from the system that they are fed up with. If you compare Clinton’s numbers with what Barack Obama won in 2008 it is a starkly different – Obama won 66% of the young voters in 2008, and 61% in 2012.
So whichever way you look at the numbers, Clinton has not managed to get the millennials on her side which allows Donald Trump to draw close.
To say the young voters hold the balance in the U.S. 2016 presidential elections is an understatement. Hence, the candidate who manages to get his support base out and voting come Election Day along with managing to get a higher percentage of the young voters will be the President elect.