Did Clinton’s ground game actually benefit Trump?

UPDATE November 15th: I updated each of the paragraphs to reflect my conclusion on each of the statements.

The Economist published the following interesting analysis of voting patterns during this and the prior US presidential election. A word of thanks to my colleague Denis for pointing this analysis out to me.

The analysis, which provides some detail, shows the demographic vote share in the exit polls, in %. As I read it, and of course I may be mistaken, the explanation for the win appears to run counter to some of the current, rather emotional rhetoric.

Statement: this is a “white-lash”

I’ve heard Van Jones posit this on CNN. But it appears that fewer white people actually voted for Trump than for Romney in 2012. Rather, it appears that more people of color (Hispanic, Asian and African-American) voted for Trump than for Romney, while a lot fewer people of color voted for Clinton than did for Obama.

Updated conclusion: I don’t think this is a real white-lash, although it appears that the white men voted overwhelmingly for Trump

Statement: uneducated white women voted for Trump in masses

Fewer women actually voted for Trump than did for Romney, and, despite the “break the glass ceiling” call fewer women voted democrat now than did 4 years ago.

Updated conclusion: it does appear based on more detailed information coming out of the exit polls that Clinton lost the vote of the less educated white women, which she anticipated to win.

Statement: older people voted for Trump

Well, the analysis appears mixed. More people between the ages of 45 en 64 voted for Trump than for Romney, but more people 65 and over voted for Clinton than for Obama. In all other age groups, both candidates lost as compared to the 2012 candidates. Both failed to energize not only the millennials, but also generation X.

Updated conclusion: Not enough young people got energised to vote for Clinton.

Statement: poor people voted for Trump

While there is a significant increase in the number of people in the lower than 50 KUSD per year income bracket voting for Trump, Trump’s increase in that segment was lower than the loss Clinton faced in that same segment. Trump lost as compared to Romney in all other income brackets, while Clinton only gained as compared to Obama in the group with an income of 100 KUSD or higher. This appears to confirm a perception of Clinton as having a broader appeal in the higher income bracket.

Updated conclusion: on average, poorer people prefer Trump, while rich people prefer Clinton

Statement: people with lower or no education voted for Trump

This statement appears to hold up. Trump outperformed Romney in 2012 with the groups with a high school degree or less and with some college eduction. However, he significantly lost out with those with a college degree or postgraduate degree. Clinton lost everywhere as compared to Obama, except for the people with postgraduate degrees.

Updated conclusion: on average, less educated people voted for Trump, while more educated people voted for Clinton.

Statement: this was a Republican ground swell

The exit polls contradict that as well. Significantly fewer Republicans voted for Trump as compared to Romney in 2012. However, not too many Republicans went over to the democrats. Independents did break a bit more for Trump than for Clinton. But fundamentally, fewer democrats voted for Clinton compared to for Obama in 2012 than republicans for Trump as compared to Romney in 2012.

Updated conclusion: this really was not a Republican ground swell. The actual difference in the four key states that swung the election is likely to be about a quarter of a million votes. Take that with the fact that Clinton won the popular vote by 2 to 3%, and it is a distribution of votes issue.

Statement: the unions abandoned Clinton

As compared to Obama in 2012, they appear to, but it was not Trump who picked this up. They just did not turn up.

Updated conclusion: yes, the unions did abandon her.

Conclusion and questions

Did Donald J. Trump win this election? I don’t think he did, or at least not because of what he was selling. Rather, it appears Clinton lost the election, (update: and only marginally so,) because it appears based on the exit polls she underperformed in most brackets as compared to Obama. This is not Trump tapping into some not clearly understood vein of public sentiment. This is just Clinton not being able to energize the Democrats.

Did the Democrats’ ground game fail? Probably not, but I wonder whether the ground game brought out some other voters, which compensated for voters that decided not to vote. No doubt the subject of future analyses as to how that tipped the Electoral College.

I don’t see an enormous ground swell of the far right in these exit polls, like we see in Europe from time to time. This is also not Brexit. Rather, I see several indications of a democratic casting error. Trump appears to have won this election despite himself. It also contradicts the spectre of a far right or alt right revolution. I just don’t see that reflected in this data.

There are no doubt other, more profound and more elaborate explanations to be found in the data, and those analyses will follow. Looking at the data available now, these are some possible explanations. I’m curious to hear more in the coming days and weeks.