Posted on May 28, 2020

Trump Didn’t Win in 2016 by Mobilizing White Working-Class Voters

Michael McKenna, Washington Times, May 20, 2020


The prevailing narrative about the 2016 election is that the president defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by mobilizing an essentially new army of white, working-class voters who had become disenchanted with the coastal elites and their indifference toward the concerns of “real” Americans. That is a distinct possibility, but it is not at all clear that the data bears that interpretation.


First, Mrs. Clinton was not very popular. Her unfavorable ratings in the dozen or so surveys conducted immediately prior to Election Day averaged about 54 percent, while her favorable ratings in those surveys averaged about 42 percent, so she was about a dozen points underwater on Election Day. For comparison purposes, immediately before game day in 2012, fellow Democrat President Obama’s favorability ratings averaged about 8 points higher than his unfavorable ratings.

Second, in addition to, or perhaps because of that popularity problem, Mrs. Clinton was unable to turn out voters. {snip}

Most of those extra 8 million votes did not go to Mr. Trump. He received only about 2 million more votes than Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah had in 2012 (62.98 million vs. 60.93 million). The majority of those 8 million votes went to other candidates, especially Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein. {snip}

Third, Mr. Trump didn’t dazzle in the Midwest, but Mrs. Clinton did even worse. Much has been made of the president’s victory in Wisconsin, but he actually received fewer votes in Wisconsin than either Mr. Romney or Mr. Obama had in 2012. He picked up fewer votes than Mr. Obama did in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Iowa as well. Fortunately for him, Mrs. Clinton got even fewer votes in all those places. In Ohio, Mr. Trump won with just 13,384 more votes than Mr. Obama received in 2012. {snip}

Finally, Mr. Trump did just a little bit better among some demographic groups — but not the ones you think — than Mr. Romney had in 2012. He won 8 percent of the African-American vote (compared to 6 percent for Mr. Romney). He won 28 percent of the Hispanic vote (compared to 27 percent for Mr. Romney). He won 27 percent of the Asian vote (compared to 26 percent for Mr. Romney).

What about white folks? Mr. Romney got 59 percent of white voters, Mr. Trump got 57 percent. {snip}