The problem for Trump is that in his efforts to appease the base, he has lost his ability to appeal to those outside of it. If Trump ends up losing, it’ll be because his gains with the Republican base have not been offset by his losses among other voters.
What makes his gain with Republicans startling is that his overall standing is 9 points worse when comparing Quinnipiac’s poll in late September 2020 to late September 2016.
The culprit is Trump’s doing much worse with Democrats and independents. He was up 7 points with independents in Quinnipiac’s poll four years ago. Today, Trump’s down with independents by 8 points. Trump’s deficit among Democrats has ballooned from 84 points to 94 points in Quinnipiac’s polling.
We see the same phenomenon in CNN’s polling as well. I gathered all the CNN/SSRS polls taken since April (i.e. when Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders left the race for president) and compared them to the CNN/ORC polls taken after the Democratic primary ended in 2016 (i.e. early June).
Trump has averaged an 89-point advantage over Biden with Republicans. That’s a 9-point jump from his 80-point average lead in 2016.
At the same time though, his average overall deficit in CNN polls has gone from 3 points in 2016 to 8 points this year.
Again, the cause is Democrats and independents. Trump’s been behind by an average of 92 points among Democrats this year compared to 83 points four years ago. Among independents, he’s gone from leading by 4 points on average to trailing by 7 points on average.
Now you might be tempted to believe that these changes within groups is merely the manifestation of some Democrats and independents friendly to Trump in 2016 becoming Republicans today and some Republicans unfriendly to Trump in 2016 becoming independents and Democrats.
We can see this pretty clearly in the data by looking at ideology instead of partisanship. Trump is doing significantly better among conservatives than he was four years ago.
Specifically, his edge with conservatives has climbed from 55 points in 2016 to 63 points in polls taken in April or later this year.
Meanwhile, Trump’s position has declined among liberals and moderates. He’s down by 83 points with liberals now compared to 70 points with liberals in 2016. With moderates, Trump’s deficit has gone from a little over 20 points in 2016 to a little over 27 points now.
While conservatives do make up a larger share of the electorate than liberals, liberals and moderates form a majority (60% to 65% of all voters).
Again, it’s a bad trade for Trump to gain more conservatives while losing similar standing among liberals and moderates.
If Trump wants to make a comeback in 2020, chances are he’ll have to retake some of the ground he’s lost outside of his base. Based on his actions this far into the campaign, Trump seemingly has no interest in doing that.