According to the data, Donald Trump would have been soundly defeated by Bernie Sanders last night had the Vermont senator been the one to face him.
When examining the 13 states Hillary Clinton lost twice — the states Trump won side-by-side with the states Bernie Sanders won during the Democratic primary — the similarities are striking. The GOP nominee likely saw this, and tweeted in May that he was relieved to not have to face Sanders in the general election:
I would rather run against Crooked Hillary Clinton than Bernie Sanders and that will happen because the books are cooked against Bernie!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2016
In five states Sanders won where exit polling data is available — Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Wisconsin — the demographics that helped Trump hit 270 electoral college votes were also Sen. Sanders’ key demographics that helped him defeat the former Secretary of State in multiple primaries in different regions of the country.
The numbers suggest that there may have been enough Sanders votes in those pivotal states to have swung the election in Sanders’ favor if superdelegates and restrictive closed primaries weren’t part of the Democratic primary process. Popular blog All That Is Interesting created an electoral map assuming that Sanders won white, rural rust belt voters in the traditionally blue states that Hillary Clinton lost on Tuesday night in a hypothetical Trump/Sanders general election matchup, giving Sanders with a 303-235 advantage.
Determining whether or not Sanders would have won the states Clinton lost is easy when looking at exit poll data taken during the Democratic primary. Here’s a state-by-state breakdown:
Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton by 5 points in Indiana’s May 3 primary. Tuesday night, Trump beat Clinton in the Hoosier State by 20 points. While Indiana went to Mitt Romney in 2012, it’s worth remembering that Barack Obama won the state in 2008, meaning it isn’t a solidly red state.
What contributed most to Sanders’ primary win in Indiana was his dominance with white voters (57 percent support) and men (59 percent support), who collectively made up 72 percent and 42 percent of voters, respectively, according to NBC News. Sanders also excelled among poor and lower-middle class voters, winning the majority of voters who made less than $30,000 in 2015, and between $30,000 and $50,000. Sen. Sanders won the support of a whopping 72 percent of independents, 54 percent of voters who said free trade had a negative effect on jobs, and 60 percent of voters who said they were “very worried” about the future of the U.S. economy.
Comparatively, Donald Trump won 53 percent of white voters in the Hoosier State’s Republican primary, and 59 percent of men — roughly the same percentages Sanders won for those same demographics. Trump also won 54 percent of voters who made between $30,000 and $50,000 in 2015, and 53 percent of voters who were “very worried” about the future of the economy.
The March 8 Michigan primary was perhaps Bernie Sanders’ most important victory, as pollsters widely and wrongly predicted a considerable victory for Hillary Clinton due to her strength with black voters in cities like Detroit and Flint. Sanders’ 50-48 win was largely due to his strength with rural, white voters disenfranchised by free trade deals backed by the Clintons, like NAFTA.
Much like Indiana, Sanders prevailed with the help of 55 percent of male voters and 56 percent of white voters. 54 percent of voters who made less than $50,000 in 2015 supported Sanders, as well as 71 percent of voters identifying as independent. NAFTA hate brought Sen. Sanders over the finish line, as 56 percent of voters who said free trade was bad for job growth in Michigan picked Sanders. The Vermont senator did very well with voters who said they wanted an outsider in office, winning 84 percent of that demographic. Sanders’ strength wasn’t in inner cities, but in suburbs and rural areas, capturing 50 percent and 57 percent of voters, respectively.
Donald Trump beat all four of his competitors in the Michigan primary along the same demographic lines. Trump won 53 percent of men and 38 percent of white voters (13 points better than his closest competitor, Ted Cruz). Among the $30,000 to $50,000 income demographic, Trump demolished Cruz by 21 points. Trump also won 45 percent of voters who said free trade took away American jobs, which was 23 points higher than Cruz.
Voters in West Virginia largely live in rural areas, work blue-collar jobs, and are some of the poorest in the country. It’s no surprise Sanders won by 15 points in the May 10 primary, and that Trump beat Ted Cruz by 68 points. Because Democrats are well-represented in the West Virginia legislature, and because West Virginians just elected a Democrat for governor while simultaneously rejecting Hillary Clinton, it’s very possible Sanders would have won the state had he been the Democratic nominee.
As was the pattern during the Democratic primary, Sanders won with white voters and men, capturing 52 percent and 53 percent of those demographics, respectively. Sen. Sanders crushed Hillary Clinton by 32 points in the $30,000 to $50,000 income demographic, and also beat the former Secretary of State by 19 points among voters who made less than $30,000 last year. Trump obliterated the competition in those same gender, race, and income demographics.
Clinton’s loss to Trump in the Badger State was perhaps the most significant of the night, as Wisconsin hasn’t voted for a Republican for president in more than 30 years. Wisconsin was also a state where Sanders notched a crushing victory over Clinton, winning by a 57-43 margin.
Bernie Sanders won nearly two-thirds of male voters, and 59 percent of whites, who made up 83 percent of the electorate in the state’s April 5 primary. Sen. Sanders defeated Clinton in all of the income demographics, but did particularly well among middle class voters, capturing 54 percent of the $30,000 to $50,000 demographic, along with 61 percent of the state’s $50,000 to $99,000 demographic, who made up the largest percentage of primary voters. Among voters against free trade policies, Sanders won by a 60-39 margin.
Wisconsin exit pollsters also asked voters about their opinions on foreign policy. While Trump made a reputation for himself as anti-interventionist, Sanders also appealed to Wisconsin voters opposed to foreign intervention. An astounding 74 percent of Sanders backers in the primary said the United States should take a “less active role” in foreign policy, who collectively made up 35 percent of the electorate.
While we can’t unfortunately travel back in time and give Bernie Sanders the nomination, one thing to take away from this data is that the tide is shifting in America toward a new form of politics that eschews global capitalism and yearns for economic populism. Whoever challenges Donald Trump in 2020 should pay close attention to these numbers.
Zach Cartwright is an activist and author from Richmond, Virginia. He enjoys writing about politics, government, and the media. Send him an email at [email protected], and follow his work on the Public Banking Institute blog.