It is no longer ridiculous or taboo to suggest real estate mogul Donald Trump may become the Republican nominee for president of the United States. But despite the wave of popularity Trump has been coasting on for seven months, he cannot count on the mood of the electorate to keep supporting him, especially if he becomes the nominee.
Among likely Republican primary voters, Trump received a piece of good news in early February. When the Republican race was in its early stages, it was believed Trump would not be able to get past a threshold of 30 percent of primary voters and that this number would inevitably decrease when other candidates dropped out and rallied around one "establishment pick."
A new poll from the Morning Consult reveals the opposite has happened: with only seven candidates in the race now, Trump is now polling nationally at 44 percent among Republicans, far ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas who was in second with 17 percent, New York magazine reports.
But when the polls expand to include Democratic and Independent voters, Trump's numbers don't look nearly as good. A compilation of polls on the different candidates' "favorability ratings"was compiled by FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver in January, which shows that Trump has an average "favorable" rating of 33 and an "unfavorable" rating of 58, which puts his overall "favorability" rating at -25. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's, by comparison, is -8; a number that is quite low, but nowhere near as bad as Trump's.
And as Silver notes, these favorability ratings have held consistently for months now. Trump's gain in favorability among Republicans has been at the expense of driving potential Democratic and Independent voters away. Also, while general election polls at this point in time are going to be extremely unreliable, Trump does badly in those too and loses to both Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
In addition to this, Town Hall reports only half of non-Trump Republican voters would support him in a general election. Given how partisan American politics have become, this certainly may change, but as it stands, it's a powerful statistic that would puncture the image of a "winner" which Trump has cultivated throughout the campaign.
Ultimately, while these numbers may mean nothing to Trump's campaign right now, they are going to become a lot more relevant should he become the nominee. He will have to change his strategy and try to convince Democratic and Independent voters that he will not govern as an extremist, and he may have to walk back certain promises made to the Republican base.
But if he does this, he risks losing a bloc of voters who are currently supporting him. Ultimately, the more incendiary rhetorical statements made by Trump during the primary season, the more difficult it will become to convince voters, as well elites within the Republican Party, that he is an electable candidate. And such a candidate, ultimately, is not going to become the next president of the United States.