Something happened in the north-eastern corner of Germany the recently that is making me a lot more worried about the outcome of the US election.
If Donald Trump wins the US election in less than two months’ time we may look back at what happened in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on 4 September and adapt the famous saying about Ohio to ‘as Mecklenburg goes, so goes the USA’.
Donald Trump’s path to White House may seem narrow, but there is a path. From his campaign so far it seems clear that, unlike most politicians, he is not trying to occupy the political centre ground. Quite the opposite; he is polling ahead of Hillary Clinton, in some cases by a lot, with a handful of important demographic groups:
- white voters rather than ethnic minorities
- men rather than women
- especially non-college educated voters...
...in other words his base is non-college educated white males.
If Trump were to win with these voters by a high margin and could motivate them to turn up at the polling booth in record numbers it could well be enough to secure a victory in 2016.
Changing the scene somewhat, to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a small rural state in north eastern Germany. Mecklenburgers held a regional election recently and delivered a fantastic result for the German protest party of the moment, the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland). And as it turns out the average AfD voters look a lot like the average Trump supporter. The AfD did particularly well with men, low skilled workers, unemployed and voters with low education (see chart below).
And this brings us to the detail below the surface of the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania election that worries me. The AfD successfully achieved precisely what Donald Trump is hoping to do in the US: voter turnout was up 10% higher than at the previous election (they motivated previously disengaged people to go to vote) and almost half of these new voters voted AfD. If Trump can pull off the same trick, it’s quite likely he will move into the White House next January.
OK, maybe the USA is different from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, but at the very least this gives me more reason to not take too much comfort from polling models, bookies and generally conventional wisdom’s reassurances that Trump is very unlikely to become the next Leader of the Free World.
Models based on historic voter turnout and behaviour may not apply this time round. And if he does win, perhaps Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will replace Ohio as the US election bellwether. You heard it here first.