The demographics of Trump’s win

Oh, I suppose this is something I’ll come back to 1000 times or so, but for now, Brownstein’s early take:

Trump held the traditionally Republican states—he won all of the states Mitt Romney won in 2012—and did exactly what his campaign had predicted for months: battered through the Democratic defenses in the Midwest.

At the same time he repelled her push into the Sunbelt. As I wrote on Election Day:

The worst-case scenario for her is that Trump’s blue-collar blitz narrowly pushes him past her in some of the Rustbelt states she needs, while she cannot advance quite enough among minority and college-educated white voters to overcome his non-college-educated, non-urban, religiously devout coalition in Sunbelt states like North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, and Colorado, much less Arizona and Georgia. Transitioning between her party’s past and future, Hillary Clinton’s nightmare is that she might be caught awkwardly in between.

For Trump the key to that pincer move was his remarkable success among white working class voters.

As polls had predicted for months, the Trump coalition was centered on white voters without a college education. Exit polls posted on showed him crushing Clinton among those voters by enormous margins almost everywhere, particularly in the South. Trump beat Clinton among non-college whites by 18 percentage points in New Hampshire, 21 in Colorado, 22 in Arizona, 24 points in Wisconsin, 31 points in Michigan, and 35 points in Missouri. The margin swelled to enormous margins in Southern states: 34 points in Florida, 40 points in North Carolina, fully 64 points in Georgia. Even in states where Clinton ran well overall, like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Washington, Trump’s margins among blue-collar whites were enormous.

In several cases, those showings represented significant declines for Clinton relative to Obama in 2012. According to the exit polls as of around 10 p.m., her share of the vote among non-college whites, relative to Obama’s showing in 2012, fell 14 points in Maine, 13 points in Michigan, 12 points in New Hampshire, 11 points in Colorado, 10 points in Wisconsin, nine points in Pennsylvania, and six points in Florida…

Overall, the national exit poll showed her improving among college-educated whites over Obama in 2012, but only by three percentage points, and losing them narrowly to Trump. (As a result, the record of no Democrat ever winning most college-educated whites remained intact.) Despite strong performances among minority voters, that left her with too narrow a coalition to withstand the Trump blue-collar surge…

Yet this did not prove enough, in enough places, to withstand the non-college and non-urban surge for Trump. Blue-collar counties in the key Rustbelt states turned sharply toward Trump. In LaCrosse, Wisconsin, Obama won 58 percent of the vote in 2012; Clinton dropped to 44 percent in results as of around midnight; in Racine she fell from Obama’s 51 percent to just 37 percent. Even in Pennsylvania, her vote share in Erie fell to 47 percent, down from Obama’s 58 percent; in Lackawana (Scranton) she dipped to almost exactly 50 percent, down from Obama’s 63 percent last time. In Macomb County outside Detroit, renowned as the birthplace of the Reagan Democrats, Clinton skidded from Obama’s 52 percent to just 41 percent as of midnight.

In an election that became virtually a cultural civil war between two Americas, Trump’s side proved much more enthusiastic and united than Clinton’s. And it has now propelled America into an unexpected, and perhaps, unprecedented, experiment.

And, damnit, we’re all (Finnish friends, etc., aside) in this beaker together.  Ugh.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

5 Responses to The demographics of Trump’s win

  1. anonymous says:

    Looks like Bill Clinton shouldn’t have abandoned the white working class in the 90’s. They only have themselves to blame.

    • R. Jenrette says:

      Remember the huge union crowds demonstrating in Wisconsin against Scott Walker’s stripping of union rights? Dems need to support strong unions and fight against Right to Work Laws.

      • anonymous says:

        Simply not being hostile would be a step in the right direction, but they needed a bête noire for their narrative, so we’re well past that point…

    • rgbact says:

      You’re blaming Bill Clinton for losing whites? The Democrat that actually believed in immigration laws? I’d say its more the recent delusionment by the coastal liberal intelligensia and their glee for the downfall of blue collar whites.

      • anonymous says:

        Yes, it was Bill Clinton who (quite correctly) calculated that he and his fellow Democrats no longer needed the white working class as a client of the party to win elections — a coalition of non-asian minorities and single women would have sufficient numbers, and as a bonus afford a certain efficiency to the rhetoric of victimology.

        Also, remember it was the ’94 election where Newt captured the abandoned white working class with his “Contract with America”.

        What you’re referencing is downstream of that.

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