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Despite the far-reaching importance of the result (for America and the West more broadly), I cannot deny that I have become rather exhausted by the 2016 Presidential election. And I am far from alone.
Back in July of this year, Quartz.com reported that “after nearly two years of media speculation, around-the-clock coverage of bitter primary battles, and an escalating contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that has engulfed social feeds, two-thirds—67%—of 18- to 35-year-olds say they are worn out by news coverage of the election, the Pew Research Center has found… And the rest of the population isn’t far behind. The November election is almost four months away, but most Americans are already sick and tired of hearing about it from the news media. Fifty-nine percent say they are spent by the exhaustive news coverage, according to a Pew survey.”
One can only wonder how such people feel at this point, after a further three and half months of rolling, droning debate and endlessly repeated talking points.
So, if you’ll forgive me for mentioning the election once more, what effect will this ‘election fatigue’ have on the final result? Which candidate stands to benefit? There is every reason, I believe, to speculate that Hillary Clinton will bear the brunt of this phenomenon and that Donald Trump has the most to gain from it.
Conventional wisdom and political polls have agreed for some time that Hillary Clinton is almost a dead cert for the presidency come November 8th. But this confidence is based on methods of collecting data which do not allow for the factors of voter apathy and simple laziness.
UK pollsters, you will remember, made the very same error back in June with respect to the EU (Brexit) referendum. Right up until the day of the vote, the remain campaign enjoyed a comfortable lead of two to three percentage points over leave. Indeed, so pronounced and consistent was this finding that Nigel Farage himself speculated on the evening of June 23rd that remain had ‘edged it’.
The pollsters were wrong in that case, commentators have decided in retrospect, because they did not factor in the passion and commitment of the leave side and the corresponding deficit of passion and commitment of remain. When the day of the vote came around, the leavers poured out onto the streets in massive numbers, while millions of remainers stayed away from the polls for no better reason than laziness and a mistaken belief that their side was predestined to win comfortably.
The Brexit referendum was done and dusted in a relatively short space of time. The US Presidential election has been, in accordance with warped tradition, dragged out for over a year now, enough time for passions to diminish except in the hearts of those most committed to their favoured candidate.
No-one is passionate about Hillary. No-one has ever been passionate about Hillary (and I include Bill in that). Trump, by contrast, has long inspired an almost fanatical, even spiritual devotion in his supporters. Despite the polls and pundits saying what they will, it may well be this lop-sidedness, the superior passions of the Trumpsters, that ultimately settles this contest in the GOP’s favour.