AGAINST THE GRAIN

The 10 Biggest Surprises From the Election Results

Voters were polarized along class and racial lines, not ideological ones.

Donald Trump in Wisconsin on Nov. 1.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
Add to Briefcase
Josh Kraushaar
Nov. 13, 2016, 6 a.m.

In an elec­tion filled with sur­prises, un­der­stand­ing how Don­ald Trump won the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion is crit­ic­al. And in por­ing over the exit polling, there are nu­mer­ous coun­ter­in­tu­it­ive find­ings that ex­plain why Trump proved to be a lot more ac­cept­able than his de­tract­ors ac­know­ledged. In the spir­it of Against the Grain, here are the 10 most sur­pris­ing find­ings from the data.

1. The Re­pub­lic­an Party united be­hind Don­ald Trump—more so than Demo­crats united be­hind Hil­lary Clin­ton. For all the ex­pect­a­tions that he would be ham­strung by the out­spoken anti-Trump fac­tion of the GOP, he ended up win­ning 90 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­an voters—not far from the 93 per­cent Mitt Rom­ney car­ried in 2012. Clin­ton, by con­trast, won just 89 per­cent of Demo­crats—3 points worse than Pres­id­ent Obama’s share in 2012. The late-de­vel­op­ing Re­pub­lic­an sup­port for Trump, which few poll­sters saw com­ing, con­trib­uted to his sur­pris­ingly sol­id 47 per­cent of the vote.

2. White wo­men swung to Trump at the end. Trump won white wo­men by a whop­ping 10 points (53 to 43 per­cent), smash­ing the con­ven­tion­al wis­dom that his can­did­acy would fuel a his­tor­ic gender gap. In fact, Clin­ton per­formed only 1 point bet­ter than Pres­id­ent Obama among white wo­men—who were sup­posed to be a crit­ic­al part of her base. It’s why she didn’t net more votes in af­flu­ent sub­urbs that she won in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wis­con­sin.

3. Non­white voters pre­ferred Trump to Rom­ney. The most stun­ning find­ing from the exit polling was that Trump won a slightly lar­ger share of the Afric­an-Amer­ic­an vote (8 per­cent) and His­pan­ic vote (29 per­cent) than Rom­ney did in 2012. And among Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans, turnout dropped from 2012.

4. The re­venge of blue-col­lar voters. Trump won an as­ton­ish­ing 71 per­cent of non­col­lege white voters, an even big­ger show­ing than Re­agan achieved in his 1984 land­slide reelec­tion. This al­lowed Trump to sus­tain losses among af­flu­ent col­lege-edu­cated white voters. One­time Demo­crat­ic strong­holds in the Rust Belt—like Young­stown, Scrant­on, and John­stown—turned deeply red. Not­ably, these work­ing-class Mid­west­ern whites gave Pres­id­ent Obama wide­spread sup­port and his mar­gin of vic­tory just four years ago.

5. There was a Comey ef­fect, though it prob­ably didn’t tip the race. Na­tion­al polls showed Trump los­ing among af­flu­ent white voters, who typ­ic­ally vote Re­pub­lic­an but were un­nerved by the GOP nom­in­ee. Yet Trump still man­aged to carry col­lege-edu­cated whites by 4 points. If any group was per­suaded to vote against Clin­ton be­cause of FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey’s rev­el­a­tions, it would have been this one.

6. Trump won 10 per­cent of Obama sup­port­ers. Con­sist­ent with pub­lic polling, Obama’s job ap­prov­al was 53 per­cent in the exit poll. But Clin­ton, his chosen can­did­ate, lost one out of 10 Obama sup­port­ers. It was a re­but­tal to those who claimed they heard a dog whistle of ra­cism in Trump’s cam­paign.

7. There were lim­its to Obama’s per­son­al pop­ular­ity. Des­pite the pres­id­ent’s sol­id ap­prov­al rat­ing, a 48 per­cent plur­al­ity of voters wanted the coun­try to move in a more con­ser­vat­ive dir­ec­tion—20 points high­er than those who wanted the next pres­id­ent to “con­tin­ue Obama’s policies.” Trump car­ried 83 per­cent of these voters. He even car­ried voters who wanted to move in a more lib­er­al dir­ec­tion.

8. The mil­it­ary lead­er­ship is wary of Trump, but vet­er­ans sup­por­ted him over­whelm­ingly. Trump won 61 per­cent of mil­it­ary vet­er­ans, 2 points high­er than Mitt Rom­ney’s share in 2012. Clin­ton warned that he was tem­pera­ment­ally un­suited to have ac­cess to the nuc­le­ar codes and re­minded voters about his acid­ic at­tack on John Mc­Cain’s mil­it­ary ser­vice, but these at­tacks largely fell on deaf ears.

9. Trump got a lar­ger share of the Jew­ish vote than Bush and Mc­Cain. Even though Trump faced cri­ti­cism for not con­demning anti-Semit­ic sup­port­ers on so­cial me­dia, he won a lar­ger share of the Jew­ish vote (24 per­cent) than either George W. Bush in 2000 (19 per­cent) or John Mc­Cain in 2008 (22 per­cent). Two reas­ons: Obama’s Ir­an nuc­le­ar deal was deeply un­pop­u­lar with Jew­ish voters con­cerned about Is­rael’s se­cur­ity, and Trump’s em­brace of his Or­tho­dox Jew­ish son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, prob­ably al­layed fears that he was a secret big­ot.

10. There was min­im­al split-tick­et vot­ing. At first glance, it looked as if there was no split-tick­et vot­ing in Sen­ate races. The swing states that voted for Trump also reelec­ted GOP sen­at­ors. The two that didn’t (New Hamp­shire and Nevada) voted for Demo­crats. But in a couple of states, there was not­able di­ver­gence between cer­tain vot­ing groups. Sen. Pat Toomey over­per­formed Trump in the Phil­adelphia sub­urbs and lagged be­hind him in rur­al areas. And Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Flor­ida won a re­sound­ing vic­tory by out­per­form­ing Trump among His­pan­ics.

×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login