I’m almost through reflecting on the election, but there’s just been so many interesting conversations going on. I found some more interesting clues in the exit polls that might help us understand the results.
First, this article in the National Post points out the Clinton’s lead in the popular vote is growing as more polls continue reporting. Yes, it takes that long down there. Some comments. First, that Trump won the election but lost the popular vote shouldn’t surprise Canadians; our governments almost always lose the popular vote. When’s the last time a Canadian government secured over 50% of the popular vote? Back in 1984, from my research.
So Clinton got more of the popular vote than Trump, but the swing to independents cannot be ignored. More people opted to vote for “somebody else” than for one of the two major parties. In fact, Clinton won the popular vote, but she still managed to only secure a marginally higher percent of the votes cast (47.84% at the most recent count) than did Mitt Romney in 2012 (47.2%), and he lost the election. She did better than McCain who lost in 2008, but worse than Kerry who lost in 2004. In other words, even the winner of the popular vote in this election didn’t do much better than the losers of previous elections.
Neither candidate in this election was particularly attractive to American voters; many stayed home, and those who turned out turned to independents more so than in other recent elections.
Now, back to the exit polls. I keep circling back to two key questions. First, if America is so divided, is it clearly divided along any particular demographic divide? Much is made of the demographics, so let’s see what the data says.
And second, which demographics are moving in which direction?
Let’s start with the epic battle of the sexes. 53% of male voters opted for Trump and 42% of female voters opted for Clinton, so the divide isn’t huge here; just 11 points. Interestingly, more men opted for an independent than did women. The total votes cast for one of the two big parties was (53 + 41) 94% among males and (54 + 42) 96% among females.
Men are 50% more likely to vote for an independent than women are; could this be a sign that they are feeling more disenfranchised from the whole thing than women? Just a thought to chew on; not an hypothesis.
As an aside, there wasn’t any significant shift for either party here; Trump gained slightly among men and lost slightly among women. As I said before, the fact that Hillary lost voter share among women is much more revealing. She didn’t lose a lot, of course, but any loss is damning considering the great emphasis that was placed on the whole “glass ceiling” narrative in the election.
The sex difference isn’t huge, but the race difference sure is. A majority of white people voted Republican (58%) and the Republican share of every other ethnic group was below half. Blacks were the lowest at 8% and “other” was highest at 37%. So if ever there was a racial divide in America, the white/black divide would be it; 58% versus 8%.
This is interesting on two levels. First, the fact that the divide is so great; a whopping 50%! That’s massive. But second, that the black vote is so overwhelmingly skewed to the one party. All other ethnic groups show a more balanced divide. Roughly two thirds or three quarters favour one party, and the remaining third or quarter favour the other party. But not with blacks. Roughly 90% of blacks favour one party and only 10% of blacks favour the other.
Second interesting observation, as noted earlier, Trump lost voter share among whites and “other” but gained voter share among every other ethnic group, relative to the last election. So much for “racist.”
Age is another very interesting factor. Trump neither gained nor lost in the 18-29 year group. He lost a bit among 30-44, gained among 45-64 and lost in the 65+ category. It would have been nicer if there had been some kind of consistent trend, but it seems to be all over the map.
The flip side is interesting, though; Clinton lost in all age groups except 65+. And even there she only gained a single percentage; up to 45% compared to 44% in the last election. But what is even more telling is the Democrat share of the youngest voters over the past few elections.
The Democrats made a bunch of gains among young people when Obama came into power – they were the party of the young voter, right? – but they have seriously let that slip. It’s now to the point where the vote gap for age (53% versus 37%) isn’t significantly different from the gender gap, and Republicans are making gains in the age demographic that is most likely to vote against them; closing the gap even further.
What about education? This one gets tricky because the exit poll questions have apparently changed over the years so it’s hard to directly compare one election to the next except in a few categories. Even so, one can at least conclude that education divide is similar to both the gender and age divides. In the previous election the maximum Republican share was 51% and the minimum was 35%. In this election the maximum is 52% and the minimum is 37%.
The stereotype of Republicans as “uneducated” is at least not entirely fabricated; those with less education are more likely to vote Republican than those with more education. However, the split among college graduates is remarkably even – 49% Democrat vs 45% Republican – and even 37% of postgrads voted Republican, so it’s not like they are a homogeneous, Democrat loving, bunch.
What about income? One of the many narratives in this election seemed to be that Trump’s policies were specifically designed to favour the wealthy, so do the exit polls reflect that? Absolutely not. The largest gap by this measure is 50% to 41%; the narrowest gap yet. Only 41% of those on the very bottom of the income scale supported Trump, but interestingly only 48% of those at the top of the income scale supported Trump. So where was that 50% I mentioned? Dead center of the pack: annual income of $50K – $100K. The middle class.
In fact, relative to the previous election the gains and losses are very interesting. Trump made the biggest gains among the lowest earners, increasing the Republican voter share from 35% to 41%. The Democrats went from 63% to 53% in that category.
And Trump lost voter share among the highest earners! In the 2012 exit poll the highest income category was $200K+ and Republicans secured 54% of that vote. In 2016 they secured 49% of the vote for those earning $200K – $250K and 48% of the vote for those earning in excess of $250K.
Clinton lost voter share among women and Trump lost voter share among the wealthy. Go figure!
Religion is another interesting one. Christians tended to vote Republican; Protestants to the tune of 58% and Catholics to the tune of 52%. All other religious groups tended to vote Democrat by a much larger margin. The largest gap was 58% to 24%; a pretty hefty gap.
The gains and losses are also informative; Trump made gains among Protestants, Catholics and “something else.” He neither gained nor lost voter share among “none,” and he lost a bunch among Jews. The “something else” category represented the largest shift, from 23% in the last election to 29% in this election.
Democrats lost in all religious groups except Jews.
Marriage is another interesting measure. Those who are married are more likely to vote Republican (53%) than those who are unmarried (38%), but the gap isn’t much bigger than many of the other ones. Trump lost voter share among those who are married, and gained voter share among those who are not.
Residence was another interesting one. Those who live in a major city center were less likely to vote Republican (35%) compared to those who lived in a small town or the country (62%). That’s a difference of 27%; pretty significant. They do not have data on this demographic from previous elections, so we cannot see what the trends are.
Many of the other measures are perception based (e.g. what do you think of the condition of the nation’s economy) so I’ll stop here because I just want to focus on objective measures as opposed to subjective perceptions.
So what does this all mean to me?
First, many of the demographic divides that seem like the biggest candidates aren’t really all that divided. There’s only about a 10% gap in their voting tendencies, so that’s not a major divide. The education gap is larger, but not massive; 52% versus 37%, a gap of 15%. Income is really close, less than 10% gap. Age is similarly close; 53% versus 37%, a gap of 16%. Marriage is 53% versus 38%, only 15%.
Religion, residence and race are the only ones that really stuck out. For religion the gap is 58% to 24%, a difference of 34%. That pretty significant. The 24% is associated with the Jewish vote, but even the other alternatives (“something else,” “none”) were similarly skewed toward Democrats. Basically it’s only the Christians who support Republicans.
The residence divide is also telling, and this is made very apparent if you look at a county-by-county map of the election results. The overwhelming majority of the geographic surface area of the USA is painted Republican red and only the metropolitan areas are Democrat blue.
The racial divide was clearly the largest; 58% versus 8%. Wow! But what I found interesting is just how skewed the black vote was. In almost every other demographic the percent that voted Republican ranged from lows typically in the 20s or 30s up to highs in the 50s and 60s. Almost no demographic dipped below 20% or rose above 70%.
Except the black vote. 8% Republican and 88% Democrat. If we consider that an anomaly, then the racial split isn’t nearly so extreme. The next lowest racial demographic is the Hispanic / Latino and the Asian demographic that tied at 29%. 58% to 29% gap looks very similar to many of the other demographic gaps in the exit polls; certainly nothing remarkable.
So what’s up with the black community? Why is that so heavily leaning in one direction? No other demographic leans so strongly in one direction. I don’t know the answer, but I throw that out there for consideration.
If I had any recommendations for Conservativism in the USA it would be this:
- For the love of God find somebody better than Trump
- Figure out what’s up with the black community
- Help city-dwellers understand the merits of Conservativism
The nice thing about the last point is that major gains can be made without the need to criss-cross the entire continental USA. If Conservativism had some kind of coordinated “outreach” effort in major metropolitan centers, then they could quickly and easily reach a very large target audience with minimal time, money and effort.
And my advice to Progressives? Your story isn’t working so well. Progressives like to paint themselves as the voice of the youth, the downtrodden, the intellectuals, the poor, women, minorities, etc. Two observations. First, this isn’t working. Clinton lost voter share among women. She lost voter share among blacks (though Democrats still have a commanding lead there). She lost voter share among the lowest income earners. College grads are just as likely to vote Republican as Democrat; so much for the intellectuals.
The story sounded good back in the 1960s, but the general public just isn’t buying it anymore.
Second, if you are the voice of “group X” then “group Y” wonders why they are being ignored. Worse than ignored, in many cases group Y is blamed for the problems of group X. The inherently exclusive and antagonistic nature of Progressive ideologies is becoming clearer and clearer, and more people are getting fed up with the fact that some people are “more equal” than others.
In short, drop the identity politics. Stop focusing on this or that demographic group as a group-in-need-of-a-saviour and start asking, “what policies can we promote that will benefit everybody, regardless of race, religion, sex, income, etc?” Start looking at people as humans instead of as demographic slices.
That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.