How Donald Trump Won the Election He Lost

Below is a speech that I gave on January 7, 2017 at the Monterey County Skeptics Skepticamp near Monterey.

It is filled with numerous statistical bits that I gleamed from the official election results. In sum, Donald Trump won because:

  • The Electoral College misfires between 36% of the time that the national popular vote is within 3%. That means a candidate who didn’t even get a plurality of the vote becomes elected as President. This is the 5th time in 64 elections that has happened.
  • Voter turnout was up noticeably from 2012 by 6% and reached an all-time high of 138 million voters.
  • Third party candidates increased their vote share from 2 million to 8 million, In addition another 2 million plus skipped the Presidential ticket and voted for other offices. That is about 1 million more than normally would be expected.
  • Hillary Clinton received almost the exact number of votes as Barack Obama.
  • Donald Trump received about 2 million more votes than Mitt Romney.
  • While vote totals were way up in most states, several states had a decline. These included Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio. These are generally Democratic-leaning states that Donald Trump carried. Michigan had one of the smallest voter increases with just 1%. It was also carried by Trump.
  • Trump won the election by a combined 78,000 votes in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan for a total of 46 electoral votes. That was his margin of victory.
  • Trump increased his share of white, non-college educated voters, generally referred to as the white working class, by 14% over Mitt Romney in 2012. Trump defeated Clinton by a margin of 39% among this group. It appears that they may have turned out in higher numbers than usual, but I do not have hard facts on that to prove it.
  • Clinton increased her share of white, college educated voters, by 10% over Obama 2012 performance. She lost to Trump by just 4%. No Democratic has ever carried this demographic since polling began in the 1950s on it.
  • The belief that white working class voters swept Trump to victory is incorrect. Trump only carried white voters by 1% more than Romney did over Obama. Trump received a boost from non-college educated whites, while Clinton had almost the same proportion among college-educated whites.
  • Clinton lost the election because minority voters did not turnout. Clinton did 7% worse than Obama on African-American voters and 8% worse with Hispanic voters.
  • Clinton also lost because in the places that she expanded on Obama’s margin, such as California, were not competitive states where extra votes helped her. On the other hand, in states like Texas, where she strongly outperformed Obama by narrowing the GOP victory from 1.3 million in 2012 to 800,000 in 2016, her extra voters did not help because those states were also not competitive.
  • The states where Clinton fell below Obama’s 2012 numbers were competitive states. It wasn’t necessarily that Trump brought new voters to the polls, but that Clinton failed to motivate regular voters. Case in point: Trump carried Wisconsin but received fewer votes than Romney, but Clinton received far fewer than Obama making Trump the winner.

More details in the speech.

 

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