A quarter of California Republican voters polled said they would refuse to vote for Trump in November if he is the party's nominee.This statement in today's Los Angeles Times is supported by a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. Then they follow that with this:
That division sets up the potential of cascading losses down the ballot for Republicans already fighting the tide in one of the nation's most Democratic states, including in a number of contested congressional districts.People not voting for Donald Trump would certainly cause Donald Trump to lose California. Of course, that's not in doubt with any Republican. They don't say why not voting for Trump would cause Republicans to have "cascading losses" down ballot. So I'll have to try figure that one out. First, the question is being asked in March, not October. A lot of voters who support other candidates vow never to vote for their rivals. Then many of them do. A lot of Clinton Democrats said they wouldn't vote for Barack Obama. As we know, they did so overwhelmingly. But people say Trump is different.
I'm skeptical of "this time is completely different" pronouncements, but let's say Republicans don't vote for Trump. It's certainly possible. We've had one sided elections before, although the last seven have been won by 8.5 points or less. Say it does happen. The next question I'd ask those people who won't vote Donald Trump would be whether they plan to vote for Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, a third party candidate, or will stay home. They don't ask this question, although the answer to it is key to drawing the conclusion they've drawn. Let's look at each:
1. They vote for Hillary Clinton. That certainly helps Clinton's vote totals, but it has no impact on down ballot vote totals. Would voters who would've voted Republican down ballot if Ted Cruz or John Kasich were the nominee switch to Democrats because Trump is? Why would they do that? People won't switch their down ballot support just because they don't like the top of the ticket. In 2014 Jerry Brown won the California gubernatorial race by 20%. Some Republican leaning voters must've voted for him. Yet Republicans won districts which favored Brown. In SD-12, for example, Brown won 55%-45%. The Democrat lost 60.5%-39.5%. He lost 28% of Brown's support! These weren't loyal Democrats flipping, but loyal Republicans voting Brown for governor. If the LA Times had asked the Cruz/Kasich voters they planned to vote down ballot and they said "Democrat" then they'd have a reason for that conclusion. They didn't ask that question. So we don't have anything.
2. They vote third party, finding someone they feel is sufficiently conservative. If they do this, they surely aren't flipping to vote Democrat down ballot.
3. They stay home and don't vote. This scenario is more plausible than the first two resulting in a big Democratic win. We'd know this if the LA Times asked the Cruz/Kasich voters they planned to vote down ballot and they said, "I won't vote." They didn't ask that question. So we don't have anything. We have no reason to think they would stay home.
The last Presidential election decided by more than 8.5 points was 1984. Walter Mondale got 40.6% of the vote. Congressional Democrats got 52.6% of the vote, an increase over what they got 4 years earlier. Trump might lose in a landslide, partially because Republicans won't vote for him. Republicans might have cascading losses. Right now, however, there's no evidence to support that.