One of the most striking — and disturbing — takeaways from Tuesday’s West Virginia Democratic primary were exit polls that found large numbers of Bernie Sanders supporters saying if not Bernie, they would actually vote for Donald Trump next fall.
CBS News reported 44 percent said they’d vote for Trump, 23 percent for Hillary Clinton, and 32 percent for neither. These findings — especially Sanders’ supporters shifting to Trump — seem like a stretch, but maybe they’re not.
“West Virginia was once a solid Democratic state, a hotbed of labor unionism that went for Democratic presidential candidates from 1932 on in all but the Republican landslide years of 1956, 1972, and 1984 … but more recently, the state has trended Republican, for a variety of reasons,” wrote The Atlantic’s David Graham. “Party realignment around conservative issues has led socially conservative West Virginians toward the GOP; racial animus toward President Obama has hurt the local Democratic Party; and the combination of weaker unions and liberal environmental advocacy against coal has lost the Dems some blue-collar backing.”
West Virginia is not a mirror of the rest of the country, although its economy and demographics resemble a lot of the Midwest and Appalachia.