By Michael Covin
It is roughly 13 months into Donald Trump’s presidency. With each president and the completion of their first year, there are often multiple avenues of analysis from legislation to approval ratings to intangible aspects of the person in the White House. In 2016, there were several studies and polls taken. Polls that told one story and at times, those stories matched reality. In other cases, the polls were not always accurate including many that predicted a different electoral outcome.
Among those polls and polls in general are often generational breakdowns. How do millennials or those 18 to 35 perceive issues or candidates? How do older voters or those classified in groups like Baby Boomers or Generation X perceive issues or candidates?
Whether it was in 2008 and 2012 with the election and reelection of Barack Obama or 2016 with Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump or many studies, there tends to be a shift towards the left with younger voters and most tend to lean that way on social issues or other elements that largely reflect values of the Democratic Party. The year 2016 saw many in this group either sit out the election or drift towards a third party option with their dissatisfaction with either major party candidate and the discourse.
With thinking about polls and in particular younger voters, a recent Axios/SurveyMonkey poll studied opinions of Republican voters on how they felt about President Trump and their outlook on 2020. There are many conversations among pundits and experts and those within different political circles of what the likelihood there is of either a third party candidacy or a challenger or two in a Republican primary against the President.
The poll not only showed an interest by younger voters who vote Republican or lean Republican for an alternative Republican candidate in 2020 but also those under 45 expressed interest in another option other than the President.
Eighty-two percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 and 57 percent of those between 25 and 34 supported another Republican challenging President Trump in 2020. Those between 35 and 44 echoed that sentiment with 58% also wanting a Republican challenger to the president in 2020.
Among older voters, there was a wider support for the president and less interest in a primary challenge to him: 33 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 54, 30 percent of those between the ages of 55 and 64, and 24 percent of those over 65 support a challenge to the president in 2020. Overall, 42 percent support a challenge and 56 percent oppose a challenge.
The generational divide is always an element with elections from contrasting viewpoints to turnout to appealing to voters by candidates and elected officials. There are certainly a lot of a younger Republican and Republican leaning voters out there. If they are passionate enough and energized enough, they might not necessarily supplant the president as the GOP presidential nominee in 2020; but based on this poll they could create a fair amount of noise if they want and seriously seek an avenue for an alternative nominee in a primary and create some chaos in a process that normally have limited ripples.
Conversely, they could also play a factor with Democratic and Democratic leaning voters who might be dissatisfied with the Democratic Party and its options and especially with Independent or undecided or unengaged voters in building a movement for a third viable option that serves as another challenge to the president.
Someone like Ohio Governor John Kasich who ran in 2016 has subtly made comments through several interviews about 2020 and could be an attractive option for those younger Republican and Republican leaning voters for either a primary or third party challenge. There could also be energy around a more conservative candidate as well based on those polled reasons for wanting a primary challenge to the president.
Through history, primary challenges have not always panned out well for sitting presidents. President Jimmy Carter in 1980 encountered a combination of a primary challenge and a third party challenge. President William Howard Taft in 1912 faced party conflicts with his former friend President Theodore Roosevelt, who ultimately ended posing a third party challenge that outperformed the sitting president.
Electoral results in 2000 and 2016 have been talked about and will likely be talked about for years to come and the impact of a major third party candidate played in the results for the party in the White House. The same can be said for 1992 while not talked about as heavily largely due to how contested the other two’s results were.
It is only 2018 and if someone were to challenge the president in 2020, it might be another year before such an announcement would be made. There likely will be more polls like this over the next year and with approval ratings below 40% for the President, it is also very likely that this conversation will be fluid and ongoing.