Explaining a Nightmare
So. What happened? Though difficult, I'm going to avoid delving into emotions and report the numbers. Just the facts.
(tl;dr version - Younger voters stayed home, older voters didn't; more white and black voters went Republican, but black voter turnout was down; and popularity of a third party / protest vote exploded.)
In 2008, 129.1 million Americans voted. I estimate that, after all of the votes for 2016 have been counted, 134.9 million Americans voted. Trump's victory can't be explained by voters staying home since this is a record turn out, so you have to look at who voted and how.
The only data we have on who voted and how are the exit polls. After this election, I don't know how much we can trust the polls... But it's the only data we've got.
Comparing the exit polls from 2008 and 2016, here's what stands out:
- In 2008, 74% of voters were white and 55% of them voted Republican. But in 2016, 70% of voters were white and 58% of them voted Republican.
- In 2008, 13% of voters were black and only 4% of them voted Republican. But in 2016, 12% of voters were black and 8% of them voted Republican.
- In 2008, 29% of voters were ages 30-44 and 46% of them voted Republican. But in 2016, only 25% of voters were ages 30-44 and 42% of them voted Republican.
- In 2008, 37% of voters were ages 45-64 and 49% of them voted Republican. But in 2016, 40% of voters were ages 45-64 and 53% of them voted Republican.
Also, outside of the exit polls, these raw vote statistics must be mentioned:
- In 2008, 1,624,296 votes went for third party candidates. But in 2016, I estimate that 6.341,285 votes went for third party candidates.
What does this mean? From this point, it's impossible to be objective but I'll do my best to be constructive.
1) Hillary didn't connect with voters. I say this under the ironic cloud of her probably winning the popular vote, but younger voters didn't turn out. Of those aged 30-44 voters who came out, 8% voted for third parties.
It's tough to say how many of those votes were siphoned from Hillary, since Gary Johnson won the majority of them and he ran on a conservative platform.
2) Voter turnout among black communities was down. This is likely a result of the Voter Rights Act of 1965 being rescinded. Indeed, before Election Day, North Carolina GOP officials were bragging about suppressing early voting to keep turnout in black communities down.
There will be lots of accusations of racism, so it's important to note that this is not an accusation: it is empirical evidence of racism. Period.
3) Trump didn't do the best job of connecting with voters either. In 2008, with fewer total voters, Barack Obama won over 69 million votes. By contrast, in 2016 Trump will only get around 64 million votes despite higher voter turn out.
4) Young voters, aged 18-44, could have defeated Trump if they came out to vote. Hillary won more of their votes than Trump did, but the amount of the electorate they made up is down from 2008.
This doesn't answer any questions; probably raises a lot more inquiries. I just hope we have time to ponder those questions while facing down what is, essentially, the nightmare scenario of a Trump Presidency with a GOP controlled House and Senate.