Whether it is the rejoicing Trump supporters, the lamenting Clinton supporters, or the flabbergasted rest of the world, absolutely no one perceived this outcome to the 2016 presidential election cycle. In one of the greatest—if not, the greatest—political upsets of modern times. A businessman entertainer, turned political rookie, precluded the ostensibly inevitable tenure of Hillary Clinton as Commander-in-Chief after conducting the most disastrous campaign in American political history (that is, a fatally disastrous campaign for anybody besides Donald Trump). President-elect Donald Trump defied all expectations, all predictions, when he conquered the Electoral College. Numerous sources, including In-Flight News’ own article regarding the matter, placed a Clinton victory at a high certainty. The challenges that Trump faced seemed too insurmountable, and Clinton’s lead seemed too unreachable for him to overcome. Nonetheless, he did. And, as far as she is concerned anyway, Donald Trump stole the election right out from under Clinton. So, how did he do it?
In order to understand Trump’s victory at the Electoral College (Clinton has won the popular vote by about 2 million votes), one must analyze the demographics of the election. Surprises and clarity are found there. First and foremost, this election seemed to be dictated by ethnic race far more heavily than previous elections. In reality, however, the racial margins were quite similar to those of previous 21st century presidential races. According to Pew Research Center, Trump continued the Republican trend of achieving the white vote—he had a 21 percentage point lead over Clinton. Likewise, Clinton retained the minority votes with an 80 point margin among African Americans, and a 36 point margin among Hispanic voters. Clinton, despite the impressive margins, clearly lost votes among these ethnic groups.
Though it is not particularly shocking, the gender gap in voter choice this election surely provided Donald Trump with additional votes that Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, could not secure. By a margin of 12 points, women supported Clinton over Trump; by a margin of 12 points, men supported Trump over Hillary. And, as per usual, young voters failed to make a significant mark on this year’s election due to their perpetuation of low turnout. They, just as in 2012 (but by a smaller amount; six percentage points more young voters aided President Obama), supported the Democratic Party by a double-digit margin, 18 percent.
The single most striking alteration to demographic trends during election cycles this year is education level. In 2012, Obama was victorious among both voters with a college degree (two point margin) and voters without a college degree (four point margin). This year, however, college educated voters favored Clinton with a 9 percent margin while voters without a college degree favored Trump by an 8 percent margin. So, despite both candidates achieving a greater margin than the party’s previous nominees did, Trump benefited. Clinton gained about seven more points than Obama did in the college educated cohort, but Trump gained 12 more points than Romney did in the non- college education cohort. Furthermore, this disparity grows when only white voters are taken into account. Trump won among white college educated voters by a margin of four points (a ten point decrease from Romney’s margin of victory).
More important, though, is his victory in the category of non-collegiate graduates of the white race. His margin of victory over Clinton was a whopping 39 percent, a 14 percent increase from Romney’s margin four years ago. It is this demographic that opened the door of the White House to Donald Trump. Blue-collar workers, a group of voters that were treated with negligence by Clinton and catered to by Trump, dominate this category. These workers just so happen to live in the former industrial sector of America, now known as the Rust Belt, and this sector just so happens to include the Midwest. It was the key region of the Midwest, particularly the states surrounding the Great Lakes that leaned Democratic in previous elections (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio), that ultimately consolidated the Trump victory. The enormous victory that Trump had among white blue-collar workers—who typically conglomerate in Midwestern states—and non-college educated voters (who tend to be blue-collar workers) gave him the edge in the three Rust Belt states, thus securing the election in favor of Donald Trump.
In a way, it is the greatest riches-to-more-riches story in history. And he lived it on the backs of the people he would be employing if he never ran for president—given that he wouldn’t have hired undocumented workers like he had done in the past, of course.
By Ryan Hill