As white working women voters go, so goes Maine’s Second Congressional district?

Screenshot 2016-10-11 10.21.25If Trump loses Maine’s Second Congressional District, the key bloc will be white women without college degrees.

Maine and national politics watchers have wondered if Donald Trump can win this district and force a split in Maine’s electoral votes. Trump has come to the district and plans on another visit. Bernie Sanders recently visited Bangor for Hillary Clinton.

Maine-2 is a district with a lot of white voters without college degrees. As paper mills and other manufacturing facilities have closed, it’s suffered a loss of good paying union jobs. Those conditions in other places in the country characterize good locales for Trump.

Polls for ME-2 have been sparse in October, but September polls favored Trump.

While no ME-2 polls have been released since an October 2-3 Democratic poll of likely voters by Normington, Petts & Associates showed Clinton 4 points ahead, national trends show Trump falling and Clinton surging.

National data suggest white working class women are moving to Clinton from Trump

There has always been a gender gap in this election. That’s nothing unusual, but the gap between women’s and men’s preferences is larger than typically found.

Commentators have pointed to how college educated white women support Clinton more than previous Democratic candidates. That’s important for states like Pennsylvania, where those voters in its suburbs push the state’s electoral votes toward Clinton.

But now we see shifts among working class white women.

According to a new PPRI/The Atlantic poll:

Trump’s support has collapsed among white women without college degrees. Until recently, they formed Trump’s largest bloc of support. In 2004, they voted for George W. Bush by 19 points; in 2008, they backed John McCain by 17 points; and in 2012, they went with Mitt Romney by 20 points. This poll finds them evenly split between Clinton and Trump, with each drawing 40 percent support. [source]

Why the shift?

Since the start of October, Clinton and Trump have held two presidential debates. All systematic scientific polling showed that Clinton won those polls. And last week a tape of Trump was released with him bragging about assaulting women by grabbing their genitals and kissing them, saying that he could do such odious things because he was famous.

Those developments are likely the reason why changes have occurred.

Regarding Trump’s remarks, like other women, many white working class women have faced situations where they’ve experienced harassment and assault from men in their lives, whether on dates or in the workplace, or at other times and places.

Donald Trump’s dismissive attitude toward Hillary Clinton, despite her being far more experienced and prepared for the job as president, along with his history of nasty comments about women during the campaign probably also had an effect.

When Trump’s campaign brings up what Bill Clinton actually and purportedly did, it likely offends these women. After all, if these women have been with men who did the wrong thing when it came to harassment or assault, they know that they are not to blame. The same goes for their women friends and relatives who had men in their lives who did such things.

The debates have been a way for these voters to hear more about where Clinton stands, and to see her talk without a media filter about ideas, her family, and her long experience working to improve the lives of women and children.

Clinton’s positions on education, health care, childcare, wages, Social Security and other issues likely appeal to these women.

Without some new public opinion data, we don’t know how ME-2 stands. But if Trump loses the district after being ahead, Clinton’s win likely will be attributable to movement toward her among white working class women. The same will be true for states like Ohio, Iowa and Florida.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.