Breaking Down Election Statistics

Since the surprising Presidential Election results became official a myriad of theories have come to light trying to explain how or why Donald Trump was victorious. They range from believes that Hillary Clinton never really had a chance to win because a third straight Democratic term was historically unlikely to suggestions that white coastal elites shamed Midwesterners so much (through social media particularly) that it turned them against Democrats – in Congressional and Senate elections as well as the Presidential one.

Other theories include 1. America is racist (Obama winning twice, not once, but twice!! makes this one far-fetched in my opinion), sexist and bigoted (certainly true though maybe not the reason why Trump won) 2. Clinton is a representation of the ruling class and consequently unpalatable for many voters and even 3. late night talk show hosts (and the media more generally) talked so much about Trump that his celebrity grew to the point it was able to overcome his deficiencies as a candidate. One thing that’s clear reading through these and many more theories is that none of them alone provide a complete explanation.

But when grouped collectively, they begin to construct a more complete puzzle. Ironic as it may be for me to say this considering how misleading pre-election data was, I think turning to post election data can help us build this puzzle. A ton of voter turnout statistics have been published since the election and each one provides a unique insight. So without further ado here are some of the more interesting stats from this “historical election.”

  1. 90% of registered Republicans voted for Trump – In October, Nate Silver published a post where he mentioned that early voting polls had Trump getting 80% of the Republican vote. Many thought we were headed toward a scenario where high information Republican voters would refuse to vote for Trump. What actually happened is that Republicans came out in support, perhaps not for Trump, but for the party, or, they may have voted for Trump simply because of their disdain for Hillary. This stat also points to an overlooked aspect of voting: single issue voters. Many voters align with a party only because of one or two issues like gun control, abortion, tax policy, or war policy. It’s probable many voters were willing to overlook what they loathed about Trump simply because he was running for the Republican party whose platform includes certain basic beliefs, regardless of who’s President. Also, don’t overlook how important the impending Supreme Court seat was for many voters. For them, swirling allegations of sexual assault  may have gone in one ear and out the other in the face of what they view as a much more important matter.
  2. 53% of white female voters voted for Trump – this stat is undoubtedly the most shocking for most pollsters and election experts. The narrative heading into the election was that Trump had alienated women voters with his misogynistic and sexist rhetoric. Yet, for whatever reason, he received a greater percentage of the female vote than Romney.
  3. As Alex Shaw of Sound Economics addressed in his post, Clinton actually won the popular vote. The latest vote total (they’re still counting votes believe it or not) has Clinton ahead 62,318,079 to 61,166,063.
  4. This means that as of now Trump has received 2 million more votes than Romney did in 2012 – you may have heard that Trump received fewer votes than Romney but many of these reports came out Wednesday morning long before all the votes had been counted.
  5. Clinton’s total, however, is still below Obama’s from 2012, though only by 300,000 votes. Nevertheless, to me, this stat carries the most weight (especially since more people voted in this election than last). It means Trump’s victory is much more about Clinton losing than Trump winning. Clinton just simply was not a popular candidate and her campaign’s hope that she would appeal to Democrats and independents (almost) as much as Obama did was probably expecting too much of her.
  6. Washington D.C voted in favor of Hillary Clinton 90% to 4% – hmm maybe rural Republicans actually have a point when they refer to “Washington elites.” Ok this may be a bit of a stretch but 40% of DC’s population is white (59% is Black, Hispanic or Asian) and most whites in D.C. work in or around the federal bureaucracy. So the notion among Republicans that the nation’s political elite are predominantly Democrat might be true.
  7. For a full breakdown of voter data by race, gender and education Pew Research has a super informative article. A lot of these numbers are less surprising than the 5 above. They include that Clinton won a smaller percentage of black voters than Obama and that Trump won the non-educated white vote by the biggest margin of any President ever.

Again, it’s important not to put much stock in any one stat, or any small group of stats for that matter. But collectively, the data illuminate the groups of people most responsible for electing Trump and give us some insight into why they may have voted for him, for better or for worse.


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