It’s Time To Throw Old Political Assumptions Out The Window
Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
As Americans try to understand what’s happening to the country and why Donald Trump was elected president, some stunning statistics and analysis are emerging.
Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote, but fell behind in the Electoral College after Trump won by slim margins in Rust Belt states that have voted for Democratic presidents for decades. In Michigan, Trump leads by 12,000 votes or 0.3 percent. In Wisconsin, he leads by 21,000 votes or 1 percent. In Pennsylvania, he leads by 67,000 votes or 1.1 percent. These razor-thin margins show that votes for third-party candidates had an impact that could have created a different outcome. They were not predicted by the media’s election day exit polls, raising integrity questions that bear some scrutiny.
While not all of the 2016 ballots have been counted, the county-level results, exit polls and campaign finance data all show a country where old political assumptions no longer hold. Here are 10 of the most striking new statistics and observations.
1. Eight million Latinos voted for Trump? Across the country, states reported that 131.7 million people voted in the 2016 presidential election. The national media exit polls found that 29 percent of Latino voters supported Donald Trump. In October, Pew Research said there were 27.3 million Latino voters this year, meaning that 7.9 million Latinos voted for Trump.
2. Fewer voters than Romney and McCain? The ballots are still being counted, but as of Thursday, Trump’s 59,791,135 votes are fewer than what Mitt Romney received in 2012 (60,933,504) and John McCain received in 2008 (59,948,323). In 2008, Barack Obama had nearly 10 million more votes than McCain, and in 2012 he had 5 million more than Romney. So what happened?
3. Millions were registered yet didn’t vote. In October, the country set a record with 200 million voter registrations. That was an increase of 50 million since 2008 and led many pundits to believe that 2016’s turnout would be sky-high. But it hovered around 130 million voters, just like in the past three presidential races. “From the data, voter registration does not translate to voter turnout and Trump victory is more a function of Democrats slowing down on turnout and less of Republicans increasing their turnout,” one analyst wrote, preparing this chart. Despite a vast get-out-the-vote operation, millions of Democrats stayed home.
4. Clinton has a 280,000 vote lead, but loses. For the second time since 2000, a Democrat won more popular votes than a Republican yet lost the White House. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped a Florida recount, giving the presidency to George W. Bush. This time, the Electoral College is to blame. As Atlantic editor Derek Thompson tweeted, “Without the Electoral College, narrative would be: Trump so unpopular that Clinton got 6 million fewer votes than 2012 BHO [Barack Hussein Obama] and still won.”
5. Twelve states had 94 percent of all events. All eligible Americans can vote, but the president is elected by battleground states. Ninety-four percent of 2016’s campaign events with candidates (not including fundraisers) were held in 12 states, with six states (FL, NC, PA, OH, VA, MI) monopolizing two-thirds of them, according to national popular vote advocates. That’s where most of the $2.6 billion was spent by the presidential campaigns and their allies, underscoring that all votes are not equal.
6. The biggest spending candidate didn’t win. Usually, the candidate or side that spends the most money wins because they can monopolize the airwaves. While the Electoral College count isn’t final, analysts calculated Clinton spent $2.79 million per Electoral College vote, while Trump spent $2.03 million per Electoral College vote. “The presidential candidate who spent the most money did not win,” Reddit’s whingdoodle noted. “The pattern holds true going as far back as 1968 except for Carter beating Ford in ’76.”
7. So close that third-party candidates could have affected outcome. This year’s third-party candidates, notably Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein, clearly took votes away from both candidates. Stein, who was a protest vote for many of Bernie Sanders’ supporters, could have stopped Clinton from winning in Michigan and Wisconsin, and possibly Pennsylvania. In Michigan, where Trump’s lead on Thursday was 11,800 votes, Stein had 50,700 votes. In Wisconsin, where Trump leads by 27,200 votes, Stein had 31,000 votes. But it gets more complicated after that, because there might be some Johnson supporters who would have voted for Clinton if he weren’t a different kind of protest vote. In Florida, where Trump leads by 119,700 votes, Johnson received 206,000 votes and Stein 64,000 votes. In Pennsylvania, where Trump leads by 68,230 votes, Stein had 49,000 votes. Stein supporters argued on a Reddit forum that Stein didn’t keep Clinton from the presidency, saying, “She still loses… See that red Pennsylvania in there?” But that’s not entirely persuasive, because these battleground states ended up with razor-thin margins. Third-party candidates may very well have affected the results.
8. There’s no guarantee Bernie would have won. It’s not clear that Sanders would have done better than Clinton if he were the nominee. As a region-by-region analysis pointed out, Bernie would likely have won in the upper Midwest. But then a Sanders surge slows down. He likely would have won the battleground states Clinton won, such as New Hampshire, Colorado and Nevada. But he would have done no better than Clinton in the South, where she gambled on Florida and North Carolina and lost both. And then there’s Virginia. “Even if Bernie won MI, PA, and WI without losing any other states, he does not win the presidency unless he also wins Virginia,” one analyst wrote. “So, what do you think? Does Bernie win Virginia?”
9. A populist uprising from the middle of where? It’s simply shocking to look at the county-by-county map to see where the country’s political balance was thrown from Obama to Trump. It’s only several dozen counties in northeast Iowa, western Wisconsin, Michigan and northwest Illinois that dramatically flipped from voting for a Democratic presidential candidate in 2012 to a Republican in 2016—with swings of 20 percent or more. This fulfilled last February’s warning by Center for American Progress demographer Ruy Texiera, who told MSNBC that a Trump victory was possible if his “message boosts turnout and margins with working-class white voters high enough in the Rust Belt and upper Midwest… even while alienating black and Latino voters. You could see a situation where someone like Trump could carry Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, maybe Pennsylvania… That starts to put a real dent in the Democratic coalition.”
10. Education is the new red vs. blue metric.The less educated a state’s population, the more likely they were to vote for Trump. Only six of the top 16 states with the highest percentages of people who only completed high school voted for Clinton (in descending order, MN, NH, VT, HI, ME, WA). The other 10 voted for Trump (in descending order, WY, AK, IO, MT, UT, ND, SD, NB, WS, KS). In contrast, the top 16 states with the largest percentages of people with a bachelor’s degree all voted for Clinton (in descending order, DC, MA, MD, CO, CN, NJ, VA, VT, NY, NH, MN, WA, IL, RI, CA, HI). And the top 18 states with the highest percentage of people with advanced degrees all voted for Clinton (in descending order, DC, MA, MD, CN, VA, NY, VT, NJ, CO, IL, RI, DE, NH, WA, CA, OR, NM, MN).
A Populist Rebellion?
It will be a while before the forces that propelled the Trump victory are fully known. There are questions to be answered about the exit poll discrepancies pointing to a Clinton victory in key states that was contradicted by vote counts later on Tuesday. The vehement rejection of Clinton by modestly educated people in rural areas who flocked to Trump and the apathy of registered voters to turn out also raises deep questions.
The new president has one more stunning statistic. Donald Trump enters the White House with the least experience in elected office of any president in the past 100 years. He has none at all. After Trump, the presidents with the least time in prior elective office are, in ascending order, George W. Bush, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Herbert Hoover, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, John Kennedy, and Richard Nixon. Conversely, the presidents with the most experience in prior office are, from the top down, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Harry Truman, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).
IMAGE: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a rally with supporters at High Point University in High Point, North Carolina, U.S. September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst