That Illusory Trump–And Bush!–Vote

One of the plausible theories about Donald Trump’s amazing standing in the polls is that he’s attracting a lot of marginal or even non-voters picked up in random-call surveys that don’t screen for voter registration, much less likelihood to vote. As Nate Cohn reported the other day at The Upshot, there’s one survey, from Civis Analytics, that doesn’t push unlikely voters to state a preference, and thus puts a lot more of them in the “undecided” category where they probably belong. The bottom line when you compare the Civis data to other polls is exactly what you’d expect: “outsider” candidates like Trump and Ben Carson do not do nearly as well.

But here’s something you might not expect: Jeb Bush also did not do as well. And Civil Analytics found the same results when it separated poll respondents by how many elections they’d previously voted in: Trump, Carson and Bush all lost significant support. But Bush lost more than anyone else.

The reason should be obvious if you think about it: “low-information” voters are attracted to non-political celebrities like Trump and Carson, but they’re also attracted to pols with very familiar names.

So maybe as we slowly approach actual voting and the electorate strap-hangers begin to drop off, Trump will lose altitude, and so will Carson, and the more traditional candidates will become significantly more competitive. But it’s not all that clear Jeb Bush will be among them. Good thing for him he’s got all that money to destroy reputations! Too bad Trump is impervious to attacks!

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.