March 28, 2017

NY Times Review: The Cause of Clinton’s Loss Election(Not Turnout)







In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, many analysts suggested that Hillary Clinton lost to Donald J. Trump because of poor Democratic turnout.
Months later, it is clear that the turnout was only modestly better for Mr. Trump than expected.
To the extent Democratic turnout was weak, it was mainly among black voters. Even there, the scale of Democratic weakness has been exaggerated.
Instead, it’s clear that large numbers of white, working-class voters shifted from the Democrats to Mr. Trump. Over all, almost one in four of President Obama’s 2012 white working-class supporters defected from the Democrats in 2016, either supporting Mr. Trump or voting for a third-party candidate.
This analysis compares official voter files — data not available until months after the election — with The Upshot’s pre-election turnout projections in Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The turnout patterns evident in these states are representative of broader trends throughout the battleground states and nationwide.
The turnout was slightly and consistently more favorable for Mr. Trump across all three states. But the turnout edge was small; in one of the closest elections in American history, it might not have represented his margin of victory. 
A More Favorable Electorate for Trump
In general, white and Hispanic voters roughly matched expectations of voter share or made up a slightly larger share of the electorate than expected, while black voters made up a smaller share.

The Electorate Was About What We Expected 

Black and Democratic voters made up a somewhat smaller share of the electorate than expected. Negative numbers indicate groups that represented a smaller-than-expected share of the electorate. 

In North Carolina

BY RACEUPSHOT PREDICTIONACTUALDIFFERENCE
White70.7%71.4%0.7 pts.
Black21.4%20.7%-0.7 pts.
Hispanic1.8%2.0%0.2 pts.
Other/unknown6.1%5.9%-0.2 pts.
BY PARTY
Democrats40.3%39.3%-1.0 pts.
Republicans32.4%33.0%0.6 pts.
Other27.3%27.7%0.4 pts.

In Pennsylvania

BY RACEUPSHOT PREDICTIONACTUALDIFFERENCE
White71.9%71.8%-0.1 pts.
Black8.7%8.1%-0.6 pts.
Hispanic3.6%3.6%-
Other/unknown15.9%16.4%0.5 pts.
BY PARTY
Democrats47.9%47.4%-0.5 pts.
Republicans41.6%41.3%-0.3 pts.
Other10.6%11.3%0.7 pts.

In Florida

BY RACEUPSHOT PREDICTIONACTUALDIFFERENCE
White66.7%66.7%-
Black13.1%12.5%-0.6 pts.
Hispanic14.2%14.8%0.6 pts.
Other/unknown6.0%6.0%-
BY PARTY
Democrats38.4%38.1%-0.3 pts.
Republicans38.8%38.7%-0.1 pts.
Other22.8%23.2%0.4 pts.

This was mainly a result of higher white and Hispanic turnout; black turnout was roughly in line with our pre-election expectations. On average, white and Hispanic turnout was 4 percent higher than we expected, while black turnout was 1 percent lower than expected.
Whether black turnout was “disappointing” or “poor” is a matter of perspective. It was consistent with our pre-election models, but it was significantly lower than it was four or eight years ago, when Mr. Obama galvanized record black turnout.
Our pre-election estimates did not anticipate that black turnout would stay at such elevated levels, since African-Americans still had a weaker track record of voting in midterm and primary elections when President Obama was not on the ballot.
Ultimately, black turnout was roughly as we expected it. It looks as if black turnout was weak mostly in comparison with the stronger turnout among white and Hispanic voters.
This was part of a broader national pattern. Mr. Trump’s turnout edge was nonexistent or reversed in states with a large Hispanic population and a small black population, like Arizona. His turnout advantage was largest in states with a large black population and few Hispanic voters, like North Carolina.
What was consistent across most states, however, was higher-than-expected white turnout.
The increase in white turnout was broad, including among young voters, Democrats, Republicans, unaffiliated voters, urban, rural, and the likeliest supporters of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump. The greatest increases were among young and unaffiliated white voters.
For this reason alone, it’s hard to argue that turnout was responsible for the preponderance of Mr. Trump’s gains among white voters. The turnout among young and white Democratic voters was quite strong.
But the turnout was generally stronger among the likeliest white Trump supporters than among the likeliest white Clinton supporters.
Over all, the turnout among white voters with a greater than 80 percent chance of supporting Mr. Trump was 7 percent higher than expected, while the turnout was 4 percent higher among white voters with greater than an 80 percent chance of supporting Mrs. Clinton.
The stronger Republican turnout among white voters narrowed the Democratic registration edge below pre-election expectations in Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Only a Modest Effect

So how much did turnout contribute to Mr. Trump’s victory? As the party registration numbers and turnout figures by race imply, just a bit. But Mr. Trump won the election by just a bit — by only 0.7 percentage points in Pennsylvania, for example.
We estimated the presidential vote of every registered voter, based on our pre-election polls, voter file data and the results of every precinct. With these individual-level estimates of vote choice, it’s easy to assess how the election might have gone differently with a different electorate.
These estimates suggest that turnout improved Mr. Trump’s standing by a modest margin compared with pre-election expectations. If the turnout had gone exactly as we thought it would, the election would have been extremely close. But by this measure, Mrs. Clinton still would have lost both Florida and Pennsylvania — albeit very narrowly.
It’s important to note that this is just one analysis, based on one set of data. Over the coming months or years, other analysts may conclude that the effect of turnout was larger or smaller than our estimates suggest. Their conclusions could differ if, for instance, their pre-election models showed a different electorate (say, they expected another big 2012-like turnout among black voters), or if their polling data shows that the people who voted were more or less supportive of Mr. Trump compared with those who stayed home.
Even so, it would surprise me if other analysts reach a fundamentally different conclusion, based on interviews with pollsters and data analysts from both parties. In such a high-turnout election, it’s difficult for the voting electorate to be vastly different than expected.
 For comparison, consider just how much worse Mrs. Clinton would have done with the 2014 electorate. Young, nonwhite and Democratic voters did not turn out in large numbers that year, and Mrs. Clinton would have probably lost Florida and Pennsylvania by a wide margin. Her losses would have been smaller in North Carolina, perhaps because the state had such a competitive Senate race in 2014.
Based on these data, Democrats are right to blame many of their midterm election losses on weak turnout. They’re on far shakier ground if they complain about the turnout last November.
This doesn’t mean that Democrats can’t improve on turnout. If the turnout had been as good for Mrs. Clinton as it was for Mr. Trump, she would have won by our analysis. But even then, she would have only scratched by.

The Trump-Obama Vote

If turnout played only a modest role in Mr. Trump’s victory, then the big driver of his gains was persuasion: He flipped millions of white working-class Obama supporters to his side.
The voter file data makes it impossible to avoid this conclusion. It’s not just that the electorate looks far too Democratic. In many cases, turnout cannot explain Mrs. Clinton’s losses.
Take Schuylkill County, Pa., the county where Mr. Trump made his biggest gains in Pennsylvania. He won, 69 percent to 26 percent, compared with Mitt Romney’s 56-42 victory. Mrs. Clinton’s vote tally fell by 7,776 compared with Mr. Obama’s 2012 result, even though the overall turnout was up.
Did 8,000 of Mr. Obama’s supporters stay home? No. There were 5,995 registered voters who voted in 2012, remain registered in Schuylkill County, and stayed home in 2016.
And there’s no way these 2016 drop-off voters were all Obama supporters. There were 2,680 registered Democrats, 2,629 registered Republicans and 686 who were unaffiliated or registered with a different party. This is a place where registered Democrats often vote Republican in presidential elections, so Mr. Obama’s standing among these voters was most likely even lower.
Were they mostly supporters of Bernie Sanders? Unlikely: He was popular among the young, but 67 percent of the 2016 drop-off voters were over age 45, and 35 percent were over age 65. Just 5 percent voted in the Democratic primary in 2016, and 7 percent voted in the Republican primary.
Is it possible that the registered Democrats who turned out were Trump supporters, and that the Democrats who stayed home were likelier to be supporters of Mrs. Clinton? Perhaps, but our polling suggests the opposite. In our pre-election Upshot/Siena polls, voters were likelier than nonvoters to support their party’s nominee.
Survey data, along with countless journalistic accounts, also suggest that voters switched in huge numbers.
Throughout the campaign, polls of registered voters — which are not subject to changes in turnout — showed Mrs. Clinton faring much worse than Mr. Obama among white working-class voters.
The postelection survey data tells a similar story: Mrs. Clinton won Mr. Obama’s white-working class supporters by a margin of only 78 percent to 18 percent against Mr. Trump, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study.
In the Midwestern battleground states and Pennsylvania, Mrs. Clinton had an advantage of 76 percent to 20 percent among white working-class Obama voters.
The survey data isn’t perfect. It relies on voters’ accurate recall of their 2012 vote, and that type of recall is often biased toward the winner. Indeed, the C.C.E.S. found that Mr. Obama had 54 percent of support among 2012 voters, compared with his actual 51 percent finish.
But the data all points in the same direction: Shifts in turnout were not the dominant factor in Mr. Trump’s success among white working-class voters.
Nate Cohn
New York Times

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