Politico claimed Tuesday that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is not expanding the Republican party, despite record turnout in party primaries in 2016.
Politico’s Shane Goldmacher argues that despite Trump’s claim to have brought “millions and millions” of new voters into the GOP fold, “it’s just not true.”
However, Politico’s data are not conclusive, and new data compiled by the RAND Corporation suggest that Trump is, indeed, growing the GOP electorate.
The data on which Politico relies suggest that in states like Iowa, 95% of Republican caucus voters “had previously voted in at least one of the past four presidential elections,” and were simply voting in the primary for the first time. That means that while the Republican primary turnout was high, turnout in the general election in November could be flat, Politico suggests. Furthermore, in South Carolina, there were the same number of Democratic crossover voters in 2016 as in 2012.
The latter point is striking, because if Trump were as poisonous to November election prospects as some pundits suggest, he should have driven more Democrats away — especially in 2016, when the Democratic primary is a real contest.
But it is the former point that is weakest. While Politico notes that many GOP primary voters had voted at least once since 1996 (a potentially long period of inactivity), it does not reveal for whom they voted.
New data from the RAND Corporation Presidential Election Panel survey — which follows over 3,000 individuals — suggest that about 8% of Trump primary and caucus voters also voted for Barack Obama in 2012. That is a striking finding, even if, as RAND’s Michael Pollard suggests, some of those voters return to the Democrats by November.
So it is wrong to declare that “it’s just not true” that Trump is attracting new voters and crossover voters to the GOP. Indeed, given that Trump has won millions more votes than Mitt Romney did in the 2012 primary, it would be wise to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new e-book, Leadership Secrets of the Kings and Prophets: What the Bible’s Struggles Teach Us About Today, is on sale through Amazon Kindle Direct. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.