Wisconsin Republican voters go to the polls for their presidential primary today, and Trump seems certain to lose the state to Cruz. Nate Cohn explains why Trump is having so much trouble in the Badger State:
But his problem in Wisconsin is mainly about the state’s demographics, not self-inflicted wounds. Even a 10-percentage-point loss there wouldn’t necessarily indicate any shift against him.
The state has always looked as if it would be one of Mr. Trump’s worst. This was true even before the primaries began.
Trump is generally weaker with voters with more education, and as Cohn notes Wisconsin is “average or above average in basically every educational category” and Republican voters are concentrated in well-educated suburbs. The state is also “a bit above average for religious adherence across all categories,” and Trump does poorly with more religiously observant Republicans. Trump also does best in states with fewer intact families, and here again Wisconsin has an above-average number of married couples. Wisconsin is a bad state for Trump for another reason that Cohn mentions:
Iowa, Utah, Kansas — and Wisconsin — have something else in common: a large population who report their ancestry from predominantly Protestant countries in Northern Europe.
These voters represented the base of the Republican Party for the century after the Civil War, whether it’s the old-stock “Yankees” who spread west from New England, or the German, Scandinavian and Dutch immigrants who generally settled over the same stretch of the northern part of the United States later in the 19th century.
These voters are probably the biggest problem for Mr. Trump that you haven’t heard of: He would fare about 30 points worse in counties where all of the white residents reported their ancestry from Protestant countries in Northern Europe than he would in a place where none did, according to our model.
This fits another pattern that we’ve seen this year: the more homogeneous the electorate and the state are, the worse they are for Trump. These factors accounted for his loss in Utah, and they’re why he will lose Wisconsin today. Trump has been consistently polling between 30 and 35% in Wisconsin in the last two months (except for one outlier from the unreliable ARG), and in this state he really does seem to have a lower ceiling than he has in many other places. That doesn’t mean that he’s “finished” or that his support is collapsing. Wisconsin happens to be one of the least hospitable places in the country for Trump, and that’s why he is losing there.