According to U.S. Election Project, registered Democrats are outvoting Republicans in early voting by a margin of over 21 points. But not so fast says polling by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist. They say that Republicans, wary of voting-by-mail, will show up in-person on November 3rd with 66% of ballots going to Trump.
There’s been talk of a red “giant wave” that will stop the blue wave from advancing. A Washington Post/University of Maryland poll found that 71% of Republicans prefer to vote in-person on Election Day.
So, on November 4th, will the GOP be saying, “Dem’s had us in the first half, not gonna lie”?
No, not likely.
Some might assume that Democrats have merely shifted their voting behavior. That all of the early Biden votes would have been received anyway, they’re just happening earlier. But that’s not the case. Approximately 20% of votes have been received from people who did not cast a ballot in 2016. Democrats are logging more new and independent voters who are emboldened to vote early. And they are doing so in the face of many obstacles — long lines, fears of coronavirus, limited ballot boxes, and threats of intimidation.
Here’s the GOP challenge: once a vote has been cast, it cannot be undone. But each day between now and November 3rd is an opportunity to convert an on-the-fence Republican to Biden’s camp. Each day is another chance in the news cycle for a rip-roaring headline that gives an Independent pause.
And each day is another chance that their vote is not made.
I predicted over 160 million votes total, and with about 50% of them cast before November 3rd, that leaves another 80 million to be processed in a day. Will Republicans wait in lines, as they do for Trump rallies? Those crowd sizes have dwindled as of late. Even Trump was shocked by the empty seats in Tulsa.
Negative support outweighs positive
According to the Marist poll, 47% of likely voters strongly disapprove of the job Trump is doing. In contrast, 32% strongly approve of his last four years. More people are likely to stand against him than for him — and this will play out in the foot traffic measured on November 3rd.
The negative sentiment is driving Democrats to polling booths early and in force, even if it requires hours-long waits. In Georgia, some waited in line for nearly 10 hours to vote. Given the sheer volume of in-person voting and social distancing controls that increase the time to vote, it is likely that extremely long waits can be expected on November 3rd.
But a polling booth is not a Trump rally. Sure, it’s a civic duty and all that. But there’s no chance to see their favorite political comedian standing at the podium, incorrectly pronouncing the vice-presidential candidates’ name for laughs, or saying he’ll be in power for “12 more years.” There is no alcohol. And there is no chance to purchase MAGA merch at the tailgate.
Will Republican voters have the conviction to wait in line for 10 hours, if required? Recent evidence suggests not. In large numbers, they don’t even keep the channel tuned as long as Democrats.
Republicans tune out earlier
As reported in The New York Times, though Republicans showed up to watch the debates in greater numbers, they were more likely to tune out earlier than Democrats. The Times analysis used anonymized viewership of over 22 million households linked to anonymized voter registration. It found that at around the 60-minute mark, both groups began dropping from their peak viewing during the first debate. But a more significant dropout was seen amongst Republicans.
During the dueling town halls, Biden averaged 14.1 million viewers on the ABC network, according to Nielsen. Trump has long used TV ratings as a measure of success. Trump’s town hall averaged just 13.5 million viewers across three networks (NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC).
While the peaks and valleys of viewership were close on the second (actually the third scheduled) debate, Republicans also tuned out earlier. Why is that? As The Times notes, people seek to avoid bad news about their preferred group or team. When presented with a performance that conflicts with those preferences, most would rather walk away. “If a team is down 25–0, the fans of the losing team will find something else to watch,” said Shanto Iyengar, a political science professor at Stanford.
While all of those early votes cast in person and by mail won’t be counted or even processed by Election Day, many will. And those early votes will be disproportionately for Biden and may be demoralizing for GOP hopefuls. Even Ted Cruz admits that this could be a “bloodbath” for the GOP.
On November 3rd, when faced with an overwhelming early Biden vote count and waiting lines measured in football fields without the promise of a spiked Slurpee tailgate, that red wave may be reduced to a ripple.
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