There were a lot of predictions from pundits in the lead up to the 2016 Election, many of which predicted a Hillary Clinton victory. We now know that Donald Trump earned the victory with key wins in a handful of surprise swing states. With this still settling in for some, we took a hard look at the data behind his victory and what drove his successes, particularly in terms of swing states. Here are our top 10 takeaways based on pre-election predictions and post-election data analysis.
10. Demographic voter party support still rings true…
For states like Florida, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, a traditional demographic voting pattern held true: Clinton was popular in large, metropolitan non-white counties with high levels of college graduates like St. Louis County, MO, Philadelphia County, PA, and Milwaukee County, WI, while Trump won in smaller, primarily white counties with less college graduates like Daviess County, IN, and Union County, IA.
Though Clinton bested Trump in traditionally Democrat racial strongholds, the biggest surprise may have been with Hispanic turnout. For example, in North Carolina, Trump won all of the top 5 counties with the highest population percentage of Hispanic voters, earning 40% of the state’s overall Hispanic vote. This factor made a monumental difference not just in North Carolina, but also in a state like Florida where 18% of the population is Hispanic (where Trump won 35% of the overall Hispanic vote).
8. Trump had no problem swaying the Republican Party (or the Democratic Party)
Some pundits worried that with Trump at the top of the ticket, the GOP would struggle to bring its voters home. Their concerns turned out to be unfounded, however, as Trump gained more support from his own party than Clinton gained from hers. Voter loyalty to the GOP was especially evident in states like Indiana where Trump earned 92% of the Republican vote to Clinton’s 84% on the Democratic side. The same trend appeared in multiple states as the table below shows. Additionally, Trump earned more support from Democrats than Clinton earned from Republicans, also detailed in the table below.
7. In many states, GOP Senate candidates outperformed Trump
Before the election, many wondered what the Trump effect would have on Republican counterparts competing for US Senate. Trump not only performed markedly better in states where high-profile Senate races were taking place, but many GOP Senate candidates outperformed his vote totals in key races.
Candidates noted to outperform Trump include:
- Marco Rubio (FL) by 216,667 votes (3.0% difference)
- Chuck Grassley (IA) by 124,357 votes (8.4% difference)
- Richard Burr (NC) by 31,589 votes (0.7% difference)
- Rob Portman (OH) by 276,483 votes (a 6.2% difference)
- Ron Johnson (WI) by 69,795 votes (a 2.3% difference)
6. In some Obama/Trump counties, turnout mattered
Counties that flipped from blue to red didn’t necessarily mean that Trump received more votes than Obama did in 2012. In Florida counties Pinellas and St. Lucie, for instance, Trump received 3.6% fewer votes than Obama did in 2012, but won the county. The same pattern is true in 14 counties in Iowa, 3 counties in New Hampshire, and 12 counties in Wisconsin. Still, Trump received more support than Clinton in these formerly blue counties, which allowed him to flip them in his favor.
5. Biggest split-ticket vote numbers in history?
Maybe not, but we did see certain counties where ticket splitting did occur, particularly in Iowa where 5 counties selected Clinton at the top of the ticket and Grassley at the Senate level. In Ohio, 3 counties went Clinton-Portman, and in Pennsylvania 4 counties split support between Clinton and Toomey. In Wisconsin, we saw a big split the other way, with 5 counties voting Trump for President and Feingold for Senate.
4. Biggest write-in or third-party vote in history?
Definitely not. Though there was speculation on both sides that voters would not be able to show up for their respective party’s nominee, it seemed that each side came home. Iowa and Wisconsin proved to have the largest third-party vote with 6.0% and 5.2% voting for someone other than the 2 major candidates. Michigan and New Hampshire followed behind with 5.1% voting “other.” North Carolina had only 2.8% voting for third-party candidates.
3. Did Trump’s silent majority speak up?
As far as we know, yes. With a name insinuating that they’re unheard and invisible to the current political establishment, it is of course hard to pinpoint exactly who these voters are. With the data available, we do know however, who the Independent voters were. We also know that they came out for Trump rather than for Clinton, most notably in states like Missouri and North Carolina.
2. Trump Train Momentum
For those of us who watched election night unfold, the night went from late to later as we watched Ohio go to Trump by 8.5%, then Florida and North Carolina by much less, and finally, by a rough 1% margin each, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. His pathway to 270 certainly included traditional swing states like Ohio, Florida and North Carolina, but his victory was secured once blue-collar, traditional blue states swung his way.
1. The Gist
Analysts will ponder the 2016 election results and ask the “why” question for years to come, but the biggest conclusion we can draw after the fact is that a Trump victory in 2016 came down to his broad swath of support among non-traditional voter blocs. Trump wrapped up key demographics with his outsider message, appealed in non-traditional Republican states and used his no-frills approach to his advantage. At the end of the day, Trump made key gains with Independents, blue-collar voters and brought his base home, and it shows in the numbers.