You probably remember that in September 1980 voters couldn’t wait to cast a vote for Reagan.
If you remember it like that, you remember wrong. At least a little wrong.
TIME magazine examined voter sentiment in its September 15, 1980, issue. Voters that year sounded a lot like voters this year. Here’s how TIME’s Ed Magnuson summarized the voters of 1980:
Disenchanted, but not apathetic. Caring about issues, although much more concerned about character. Longing for a strong person to trust, but fearful of strength lacking sound judgment. Leery of weakness, but edgy about brashness. All too mindful of the disappointments of the past, but seeking hope in the future. Leaning toward one man, but often out of desperation and a sense of disdain for the others. Uncommitted. Unpredictable.
In 1980, people knew Carter was weak and bumbling, but they were afraid Reagan might blow up the world. In 2016, we know Clinton is crooked and sickly, and some people are afraid Trump might blow up the world. (In fact, almost every Republican candidate since Goldwater was supposed to blow up the world. That charge is getting pretty stale.)
The Numbers Are Remarkably Similar
When you look at the numbers from about the same period, you find incredible similarities between Clinton vs. Trump and Carter vs. Reagan. Since Rasmussen is the only major public poll looking at likely voters (as opposed to registered voters), we’ll use that.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online White House Watch survey of Likely U.S. Voters shows Clinton with 41% support to Trump’s 39%. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson picks up nine percent (9%) of the vote, while Green Party nominee Jill Stein trails with three percent (3%). Three percent (3%) like some other candidate, and five percent (5%) are undecided.
And from TIME September 15, 1980:
Carter and Reagan are deadlocked at 39% each, while Anderson’s support is 15%—precisely the level set by the League of Women Voters for him to qualify as a “viable” candidate and therefore earn a third spot in its crucial opening debate, set tentatively for Sept. 21 in Baltimore.
If you combined support for Green Party’s Stein with support for Libertarian Party’s Johnson and the 3 percent who favor “some other candidate,” third party candidates would be at . . . 15 percent. Amazing, right?
You probably know that a lot of people have negative feelings about both Clinton and Trump. The same was true in 1980:
Fully 55% say they are not “personally interested or excited about” any of the candidates. Only 11% report genuine enthusiasm for Reagan; a mere 9% feel that way about Carter and 6% about Anderson. In fact, much of the support given their preferred candidates is based on voters’ opposition to the others; the choices are essentially and votes. Thus 43% of the voters who prefer Reagan say they do so because they are “really voting against Carter.” Similarly, 34% of Carter’s supporters say their choice is based on opposition to Reagan, while a hefty 61% of Anderson’s followers admit that they are motivated by being “against Carter and Reagan.”
You might think there were a lot more undecided voters in 1980 than in 2016. But that’s not true, either. In early September 1980, just 1 percent considered themselves undecided.
Reagan Had a Disastrous August
If you think Reagan’s popularity only grew throughout the summer, you’ll want to think again. From TIME:
Though Carter and Reagan are even up in the race, the poll discloses areas of serious slippage for Reagan in important areas. For one thing, 59% of those preferring Carter claim they do so out of a positive feeling for him: they like his “experience,” and consider him “safer” in foreign affairs. Only 45% of Reagan’s followers feel a similar sense of confidence in their choice’s ability to get things done and to answer the need for a change. At the same time, Reagan’s rating on abilities regarded as important by voters has declined. In TIME’S last survey in May, 49% of those sampled agreed that Reagan was a leader “you can trust,” while 42% believe that now. Reagan was then considered “acceptable” as a President by 64%; the current figure is 54%. Voter confidence in Reagan’s ability to handle the economy has dropped from an impressive 75% to 66%, and his perceived competency in foreign affairs has slipped from 72% to 63%. The Californian still worries voters on a basic level: 54% of those surveyed feel that he often does not get his facts straight, and 48% fret that he may be “trigger happy.”
What Will Happen?
I’ve already predicted a Trump landslide. No need to change any of that. The more I hear Trump, the more hear Kemp. The more I research 1980, the more I see 2016.
Republicans are winning the race for new voter registrations in key states. According to the leftist Politico.com, “in Pennsylvania, Florida, Iowa and North Carolina, more new voters identify as Republicans.” Heavy Republican voter drives will help in northeastern Ohio, too, according to fellow Tea Party for Trumper Tom Zawistowski.
And one more amazing parallel to 1980 is playing out before our eyes. In 1980, Democrat voter enthusiasm collapsed after Carter defeated Ted Kennedy in the primaries. As TIME pointed out:
The survey pinpoints one group of voters still posing a considerable problem for Carter: the former followers of Senator Edward Kennedy. Despite the efforts at the Democratic National Convention to patch up the party’s deep rift and Kennedy’s later pledges of support for Carter, the Senator’s followers now split three ways on what they intend to do: 39% say they will back Carter; 28% prefer Anderson; a surprising 22% are disaffected that they say they will ump over the wall and vote for Reagan.
In 2016, Democrat enthusiasm collapsed after Clinton outlasted socialist Bernie Sanders. Via Bloomberg:
A June 14 Bloomberg Politics national poll of likely voters in November’s election found that barely half of those who favored Sanders — 55 percent — plan to vote for Clinton. Instead, 22 percent say they’ll vote for Trump, while 18 percent favor Libertarian Gary Johnson.
Amazing, isn’t? Twenty-two percent of Kennedy voters said they’d vote for Reagan over Carter. And the 22 percent of Sanders supporters say now they’ll vote for Trump. Amazing parallel.
On Sunday, August 28, you’ll take part in the St. Louis area Tea Party for Trump. NFL Hall of Famer Jackie Smith will sing, and we will have live music starting about 3:30 p.m. The rally will begin at 4:00. You’ll leave Festus with a renewed sense of hope for our country, regardless of how you feel about our candidate. Get your free tickets now.
You might want to read my latest book, Turning On Trump, before Sunday. Or you can buy a copy there.
On November 8, you’ll probably be amazed at how early the race gets called for President Trump.
Also published on Medium.