How did Trump win? Breaking down the Republican's unexpected victory
Published Wednesday, November 9, 2016 5:17PM EST
Going into election day, almost every major poll suggested Hillary Clinton was poised for a cakewalk. Pundits spoke for weeks of Trump’s “steep climb” and “narrowing path” to the White House. On Tuesday, the New York Times gave Clinton an 84 per cent shot at becoming president, with 322 electoral districts to Trump’s 185.
By 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, it was clear that a Clinton win wasn’t just difficult – it was impossible.
How could the estimates be so wrong?
It’s a question pollsters will undoubtedly dissect in the weeks to come. For the moment, here are a few key factors behind Trump’s unexpected victory.
DESIRE FOR AN OUTSIDER TO ‘FIX’ ECONOMY
The first inklings of a Trump presidency may have been festering in an unlikely place: the Bernie Sanders campaign. According to one U.S. pollster, the hotly contested race for the Democratic nomination – a race many analysts thought would be cut and dried for the Secretary of State – reflected early signs of dissatisfaction with so-called Washington insiders.
“The same forces that I think were fuelling the Bernie Sanders rise were fuelling the Trump rise – the economic anxiety in the United States, the class differences in the United States, and a ‘throw the bums out’ view among a lot of the voters,” Andrew Smith, a political science professor with the University of New Hampshire, told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
Economic woes were widespread. According to national exit polling conducted by Edison Research, two-thirds of voters considered their personal financial situation worse or the same as four years ago, and one-third said they expect life to be worse for the next generation.
HUNGER FOR CHANGE
Control of the White House tends to follow a fairly predictable pattern, Smith said: “Americans typically give one party two terms, then throw them out (and) bring in the other party.”
The last time a party won three consecutive terms was in the 1980s, when Republican Ronald Reagan passed the presidency to George H. W. Bush.
Four in 10 voters went to the polls hungry for change, according to the Edison Research polling. Almost seven in 10 voters said they were unhappy with the government – and a quarter of those said they were angry. Three-fourths of angry voters said they supported Trump.
SILENT TRUMP SUPPORTERS
Some pollsters pondered before voting day whether a portion of Trump voters weren’t being recorded in national polling data.
To explore the possibility, Main Street Research president Quito Maggi looked at polling from 15 battleground states during the Democratic and Republican primaries, and compared those figures with the primaries’ results.
In Ohio, Maggi found Trump outperformed the polls by eight points. In Pennsylvania, Trump saw a 9.8 per cent boost between the poll and the ballot box.
In comparison, Clinton underperformed by a total of 26 points across the 15 critical swing states.
Another factor at play was voters who decided to cast a ballot for the first time in over a decade – a demographic that would be easily overlooked by polls of likely voters.
“We heard last week that there were a lot of people who hadn’t voted in 15-plus years in Ohio who were registering to vote again,” Maggi told CTV’s Power Play on Wednesday.
“That means the last time those people voted were for Bush Jr. and probably Reagan,” he said. “(They) came out for the first time in a very long time, but they were screened because they were unlikely voters.”
WHITE MEN WITHOUT DEGREES
Pollsters often talk about demographics in voting blocs – the Millennial vote, the Latino vote. On Tuesday, the Uneducated White vote made a colossal difference for Trump.
Trump won 7 in 10 votes of non-college-educated white men and 6 in 10 votes of non-college-educated women. Those numbers are among the strongest consolidated vote for a Republican since 1972, when pollsters first began crunching the numbers.
In contrast, Clinton earned less than a quarter of votes from non-college-educated white men. (In 2012, Obama garnered about a third of those votes.)
…MALE VOTERS IN GENERAL
Clinton struggled – and ultimately failed -- to earn the support of male voters across all demographics. The difference between the number of men and women who voted for her was 13 percentage points – the largest gender gap ever recorded by the Edison Research polling.
Clinton didn’t appear to lose support from women who voted for Obama. Instead, she lost out on less-educated white men, who threw more support behind Trump than the previous two Republican candidates, Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008.
RUST BELT GOES RED
Key battleground states in the Rust Belt and Great Lakes region -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin -- were seized by Trump, who campaigned on a platform of returning manufacturing jobs to the economically strapped region.
His success there has been largely attributed to a tectonic shift in working-class voters. In 2008, Obama won Belmont County, a coal manufacturing area along the Ohio River. On Tuesday, Trump won the county with almost 70 per cent of the vote.
Exit polls in Ohio reflected more of the country’s deep-seated economic anxiety. Almost half of all Ohio voters said international trade hurt the state, and two-thirds said that the job situation in Ohio has deteriorated or remained the same in the past four years. Of both groups, a majority cast ballots for Trump.
Before election day, early voting figures out of Florida and Nevada suggested that 2016 could be one of the biggest voter turnouts in history. But early estimates suggest that national voter turnout was actually quite low.
Final figures have yet to be reported, but the U.S. Election Project estimates that 128.8 million voters cast ballots. If those numbers are true, it would be the lowest turnout since 2004.
Traditionally, low voter turnouts favour a Republican president.
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press