Crowds vs. Polls: Predicting the 2016 Election

Does voter enthusiasm translate into electoral victory?

If so, Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. For the duration of his campaign, both in the primaries and in the general, Trump has drawn record crowds everywhere he goes. In the primaries, the only man sharing his populist appeal was Sen. Bernie Sanders, who led a progressive revolt on the DNC establishment just as Trump was doing the same thing within the Republican Party.

For Hillary Clinton, it’s been a much different story. Among her voting base, as many people are planning to cast a ballot against Trump as they are for Hillary. They will be marching to the polls out of grim obligation in November, if they march at all. Certainly, they haven’t bothered to show up for her campaign events. As Fox News reported on Friday, one look at a Hillary Clinton “rally” is enough to make a Democrat reach for the antidepressants:

It was another day out on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton, and another event held in a small room, in front of a small crowd.

Supporters and media alike crowded Wednesday into a community center gym in Orange County, Fla., a critical battleground in what is arguably a must-have state for any presidential nominee, to hear the Democratic nominee speak. Campaign officials estimated “about 500” people in attendance, and “another 500” in an overflow room – though Fox News counted only about 300 in the gym, and the pool report pegged the overflow crowd at “about a hundred.”

That same day, Republican opponent Donald Trump was packing a theater in Toledo, Ohio, with an estimated 2,700 people.

If that sounds bad, consider this: For Trump, 2,700 is a moderate turnout at best. For Hillary, a packed 500-seat auditorium (if that was indeed the case) is a step up from her usual numbers. If you go by crowd size and ignore the polls, you would think President Donald Trump was an inevitability.

But then, look what happened to Sanders.

If there’s a difference here, though, it’s that Sanders’ supporters were almost uniformly young. They were college-aged progressives who had stars in their eyes, blinding them to the true nature of the political establishment (and the true nature of a socialized democracy, but that’s another story). Even so, they could have overcome the DNC. Why didn’t they? Because while they were eager to turn out for a Bernie Sanders rally, they weren’t that enthusiastic about showing up to vote. That’s not a knock on Sanders’ supporters or millennials or college kids; that’s just the way it is. Young people, historically and currently speaking, do not vote.

Donald Trump is not counting on the youth vote to win in November. His rallies are not packed with 18-23-year-olds. Yes, he has some millennial support – just as he has some black and Hispanic support – but it’s not the demo that’s going to send him over the top. His base is older, wiser, and a little more world-weary. And they know that as fun as it is to go see Trump in person and meet hundreds of like-minded Americans, it won’t be enough to put him in the White House.

They’re going to show up on Election Day.

Will Hillary’s supporters do the same?

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