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In Search of the Never-Trump Ticket-Splitters

In states like Arizona, New Hampshire, and Ohio, voters who can't abide the top of the GOP ticket but support it down-ballot may decide who occupies the White House—and controls the Senate.
Supporters at a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Mesa, Arizona, on Dec. 16, 2015.

Supporters at a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Mesa, Arizona, on Dec. 16, 2015.

Photographer: Caitlin O'Hara/The New York Times via Redux

­­­­­­­Even before the blizzard of sexual-assault accusations leveled against him, Donald Trump made Republicans nervous about their chances of maintaining control of the Senate. Now, with the Republican presidential nominee’s poll numbers sinking in key battleground states, the GOP’s down-ballot candidates have begun searching for a species of voter long thought to be moving toward extinction within the nation’s polarized electorate: ticket-splitters.

Ticket-splitting has been on a steady decline since 1972, when 28 percent of voters divided their votes between the two major parties. That year, as Republican President Richard Nixon won a landslide re-election against George McGovern, Democrats increased their Senate majority by two seats. Four years ago, 11 percent of Americans cast simultaneous votes for at least one candidate from each party seeking federal office.