(Another) Update on Intra-Party Support and its Historical Context

Over the past few decades, self-identifying Democrats have increasingly voted for Democratic candidates and self-identifying Republicans have increasingly voted for Republican candidates. This may seem like a basic intuitive fact, but rates of voting for one’s own party candidate have never been higher than in recent times. At various points, the 2016 election has challenged this growing pattern.

Republican nominee Donald Trump has struggled with gaining support of high socioeconomic voters among the Republican rank-and-file–a subgroup that the GOP has consistently won. Meanwhile, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has found problems with reeling in younger voters–those found in the 18-24 and 18-34 categories in surveys–to the same extent prior Democratic candidates have dominated the age group. Thus, the process by which Trump fills the gap in his Republican support and Clinton filled hers in her Democratic support was always going to prove an influential factor for the election outcome.

Few major events–with the crucial convention periods having passed–are left on the calendar to really spur any intra-party coalescence. Only three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate are left. While debates have little proven effect on electoral behavior, it might contribute to intra-party developments–even if it moves the needle a bit it could be important in a close election. Accordingly, here’s a quick check-in on intra-party trends at this point in the election.

Data from HuffPost Pollster.

Not many polls have taken place entirely after the first debate–doing this same analysis in a week might produce a different result–but nevertheless the above graph shows that not much has changed in the past few post-debate polls.

After diverging with Clinton in late July–notably around the conventions for both parties–Trump began to rekindle support from his own party in early to mid-August. From September onward, it wasn’t that large of a difference, but Clinton still had a few more percentage points support from Democrats than Trump did from Republicans.

That’s where we currently stand today in respect to this critical dynamic. Of course, these levels of intra-support rest more on the atypical side. Below are the intra-party support levels from exits polls on election day from the past four races.


Getting stuck between 80 and 85 percent–among Democrats for Hillary and Republicans for Trump–does not reach these high 80s and low 90s intra-party percentage support numbers seen in the last four elections. Both candidates in the 2016 race have thus far underperformed the expected level of support they should be receiving from their own parties.

The remaining month will almost assuredly bring these intra-party numbers for Clinton and Trump up, but even then these two are lagging behind. That’s particularly troubesome for Trump. In each of these past four elections, it has been the Republican candidate who exceeded the intra-party support of the Democratic one. That’s been inverted ever since the general election candidates in 2016 were set in stone, and it’s something the GOP can’t really afford–it needs that higher level of support from its own party, because in terms of the portion that each party makes up of the electorate, there have been more self-identifying Democrats at the polls in each of the last four elections. If Democrats make up a greater share of the electorate and support their own party’s candidate at a higher rate, it makes it all the more difficult for the GOP to seize back control of the White House in 2016.

(Another) Update on Intra-Party Support and its Historical Context

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