Was Trade the Secret Sauce in Bernie Sanders’ Michigan Win?


From the Washington Post on Bernie Sanders’ win in Michigan last night:

Senator’s win fueled by his opposition to ‘disastrous’ trade deals

Sanders’s come-from-behind victory was fueled by a relentless focus on his opposition to “disastrous” trade deals that have battered the manufacturing sector in Michigan. He will carry the same message to Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri next week.

….Sanders campaigned hard in Michigan, holding large rallies across the state over the past week and hammering Clinton for what he called her record of failure on trade and job protection — an appealing message in a state that has lost manufacturing jobs. “While others waffle, Bernie is fighting hundreds of thousands in new job losses,” said the narrator of a Sanders television ad in heavy rotation in the state.

Maybe. But here are a few exit poll results from Michigan:

  • Sanders won union households 49-47 percent.
  • Clinton won voters who think the economy is the most important issue by 51-48 percent.
  • Among voters who think trade with other countries takes away US jobs, Sanders won 58-41 percent.
  • Among voters worried about the economy, Clinton won 50-48 percent.

There’s clearly some evidence for the trade theory, since Sanders won a convincing victory among voters who think trade takes away US jobs. But more generally, voters concerned about the economy broke pretty evenly.

The bigger story, perhaps, is that Sanders won a whopping 83 percent of voters under 30. That’s a fifth of the electorate. He also won a respectable 31 percent of the black vote. In both cases, this is better than he usually does.

Maybe trade really was the key margin of victory for Sanders in Michigan. But the evidence is a little thin, and it seems as though age and race breakdowns can explain things pretty well too. I’d be careful about drawing too firm a conclusion from Michigan about trade being an especially potent issue.