Home/Daniel Larison/The Leave Win Doesn’t Presage a Trump Victory

The Leave Win Doesn’t Presage a Trump Victory

Peter Weber draws lessons for the 2016 election from the EU referendum:

The first lesson Brexit has for anti-Trump America is that there’s a potential majority out there that is angry, scared, and more than willing to jump into the abyss.

There are a few problems with comparing the result from Britain’s vote last week and Trump’s chances in our presidential election. For one thing, Trump is viewed even less favorably here than the EU is viewed in Britain. Only 44% in Britain viewed the EU favorably in a Pew survey earlier this year, and Trump’s average national favorability rating is 36%. The Republican candidate is more toxic to most Americans than the EU is to most Britons, and Remain just lost.

If the referendum tells us anything about our election, it is that the side weighed down by the unpopular candidate/cause is the one that will end up losing, but then we should have already known that. Even if he didn’t have other problems, Trump would have an uphill climb in the general election because most Americans simply dislike him. While there are some clear similarities between some Leave and Trump voters, it would be a mistake to see the success of the Leave campaign as a sign that Trump is capable of pulling off something similar.

Another reason to doubt that the EU referendum tells us much about how Trump will do is the different demographics of the two countries: the U.S. has a significantly lower percentage of white voters and a much larger percentage of nonwhite voters. If the U.S. looked like the U.K. demographically, it’s conceivable that Trump could win the election, but that hasn’t been the case for forty years or more. There may be more white voters than many people have assumed based on 2012 exit polling, but there don’t appear to be enough of them to make Trump president.

Polling for the EU referendum was not all that accurate, and Trump supporters can draw some encouragement from that, but that is not saying much. Leave was very competitive in the polling average during a large part of the campaign, and Trump’s deficit against Clinton just continues to grow. Leave started out pretty far behind, but gradually closed the gap. Since he clinched the nomination, Trump’s numbers have been going the other way. If you paid attention to the polls in the referendum campaign, a Leave win would not have surprised you at all. Based on the polling we’ve seen in late spring and early summer, it requires a dramatic recovery or an unparalleled polling failure to imagine a Trump victory.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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