With contentious primary races testing party loyalty across the country, the Wason Center for Public Policy surveyed Virginia voters to discover how identified Republicans and Democrats would support Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton if they become the general election candidates. Focusing on voters who cast ballots in their party’s March 1 Super Tuesday primary revealed striking differences in this critical swing state.
Almost a third of likely Republican voters (29 percent) say they would defect if Trump is nominated. In contrast, 90% of likely Democratic voters say they would stick with Clinton if she becomes their party’s nominee. “We found a real loyalty gap,” said Dr. Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University. “If Donald Trump turns out to be the Republican nominee, it’s clear that a very significant proportion of Republican voters will either defect or stay home. But it looks like most Democrats – even those who backed Bernie Sanders in the March primary – would support Clinton.”
The survey showed that young voters, especially Millennials who have been strong for Clinton’s Democratic primary rival, Bernie Sanders, would stick with Clinton over Trump by 22 points. The gender gap strongly favors Clinton. Women voters prefer Clinton to Trump by 23 points. Men prefer Trump by 6 points. Where would those Republican voters go if Trump is the Republican nominee?
Rather than vote for Trump, 13 percent say they would vote for the Democrat, 13 percent say they would vote for a 3rd party candidate, and 3 percent would stay home. Democrats, on the other hand, would strongly support Hillary Clinton, with just 4 percent switching to a Republican vote, 3 percent voting for a 3rd party, and 2 percent sitting it out on Election Day.
“There’s a sizable distaste for Trump among Virginia Republican voters,” said Dr. Rachel Bitecofer, director of the Wason Center Survey Research Lab. “Almost a third would defect or stay home in November. A solid third like the idea of stopping him in July by giving the nomination to another candidate in a brokered convention. This adds up to a real advantage for Clinton in purple Virginia.” Geographically, a suburban-rural divide is clear, as Clinton wins in Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads, while Trump takes Southwest Virginia.