Why was Trump winning the 2016 election, when I know so few people who admit to voting for him?

  • I am a well educated Republican, of generally conservative views. Pretty much every day I see and hear people talk about how poor of a candidate Donald Trump is. But he's winning primary after primary, and is likely to win tomorrow in my home state. Every other election I've known plenty of people who are voting for the top several candidates, but for some reason unknown to me the circle of people I talk politics with don't seem to be voting for Trump. Why is that? A few possible thoughts I've had:

    1. Donald Trump supporters are less willing to talk about their desire to vote for him.
    2. Donald Trump supporters fall under a category of people with whom I have little contact, at least of the type that would be likely to talk politics.
    3. Something about my attitude makes me less likely to see his supporters than normal. I'd like to think this isn't the case, but it could be.
    4. Something else?

    It's simply because you and your friends are in a different demographic.

    Perhaps Diebold Election Systems likes Trump more than you and your friends do?

    Bollocks, can't post answer, here's a great video with some good ideas put forth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6PcQ1Be5ak

    I grew up in the only integrated neighborhood in a segregated city. I can remember wondering how the Republicans ever hoped to win anything, when I couldn't find a single person at my elementary school who supported them. If you can answer my question, you are well on the way to answering yours.

    I've seen reports that liberals are more likely to unfollow/unfriend conservatives that they disagree with. Perhaps this holds true inside the population that votes Republican too? Perhaps you're insulating yourself in a bubble of groupthink?

    Possibly also because the non-Trump votes are spread out between several different candidates, and he needs a smaller percentage of the votes than usual to win. But that is just a hunch, I haven't checked.

    Do most of the people you know live in states that have actually held their primaries? Most states haven't. Also, are they even Republicans likely to vote in the primary? If they voted for Trump, are you the kind of person they would tell that to and expect the news to be well-received? Is there *any* candidate who a lot of people you know admit to voting for?

    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

    I think it's less about Donald and more about the huge level of voter anger over politicians preferring to pursue their own agendas rather face the very, very difficult (and real) political sacrifices that need to be accepted in order to resolve the primary challenges facing us today.

    How is it that no one has posted the famous quote "How could Nixon have won? Nobody I know voted for him" by Pauline Kael?

    Judging by http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/08/trump_revoke_us_citizenship_from_those_with_undocu.html it's probably for the same reason most racists won't out themselves as racist.

    @blip I find that hard to believe. It seemed pretty certain from an objective point of view that Trump lost all of the presidential debates. I literally know 0 people who would vote for trump.

    I suspect a lot comes down to the violence against those that have stated Trump support in any areas with a liberal lean.

    5. Maybe some democrats are voting for Trump?

  • Bobson

    Bobson Correct answer

    5 years ago

    This is a great question, but it's really impossible to answer for certain at this point in time. Trump's current success is defying a lot of "conventional wisdom" about how primaries go. That said, the odds are good that your reason #2 is the most likely:

    "Donald Trump supporters fall under a category of people with whom I have little contact, at least of the type that would be likely to talk politics."


    This article from FiveThirtyEight, while it dates from December (well before any actual votes) still seems accurate when it says:

    The latest polls of the Republican presidential primary show a party badly divided by education: Donald Trump’s strong showings are entirely attributable to huge leads among voters without a college degree, while voters with a degree are split among several candidates.

    It then goes on to draw a parallel to last election cycle:

    A similar diploma divide was starkly evident in 2012, when college-educated Republicans almost single-handedly propelled Mitt Romney to the nomination.

    Romney’s two chief rivals, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, combined to win 765,329 more primary votes than Romney before they exited the race in April, thanks to their dominance among voters without college degrees. But those non-college-educated GOP voters split fairly evenly between Santorum and Gingrich, allowing Romney to prevail with a plurality of votes.

    Part of what Trump has going for him this election cycle appears to be motivating the non-college-educated-but-conservative segment of the population to turn out and vote in higher numbers than usual. All four Republican contests so far have had greater turnout than in 2012, including Nevada where Trump got more votes this year than there were votes cast in 2012. If Trump supporters are people who generally have not been involved in primaries or politics in the past, then you and your politically-aware circles would have very little overlap with them.

    Additionally, since that demographic is showing up specifically to vote for Trump, then the division of the more politically active segments between the rest of the field leaves an opening for a plurality candidate who can never reach a majority. One theory says that Trump has a "ceiling" of somewhere around 35% support (+/- 5%). 35% is a lot in a race where the other 65% is split 22/22/8/8/5, but it's nowhere near enough in a race where the other 65% is united. Even if it were 45%/55% after consolidation, Trump wouldn't be winning.


    All that can probably be summed up by saying:

    1. You aren't finding Trump voters in your circles because you're talking to college-educated people who were already interested in politics.
    2. Trump is winning because the voters in your demographic are splitting their votes among non-Trump candidates.

    The theory espoused by 538 (or is that your ad-lib?) on the 35% ceiling is easily testable as more candidates drop out. If the theory works, Trump will have no bounce in share and the other candidates will gather the majority of splillover. If it is false, Trump will rise above 35% by a meaningful amount.

    @user4012 - Yep. That's why it's not possible to answer for sure. After today's votes and subsequent polling, there will be more data points to argue for or against the theory.

    It's almost as if a two-party system is insufficient to represent the range of actual voter viewpoints.

    Conventional wisdom topped Trump out at 15% then 20% then 25%, so now it is 35%. Conventional wisdom has been wrong this entire election cycle and they are wrong about Trump and who and why people are voting for him. I wouldn't give any credence to the so-called experts this election. They still can't admit to themselves that the people have finally realized their party leaders are liars who have no intention of doing what they say they are going to do. I guess the "college-educated" crowd hasn't picked up on that simple fact yet.

    I was once told that we needed a two party system to prevent the majority from losing. That is precisely what is happening in the Republican primary. The majority of the people AREN'T voting for Trump but he is winning.

    @Dunk - "Conventional wisdom" says that Trump shouldn't have ever made it as far as he did. That's been thrown out long since. **Polls** try to explain who is voting for him and why. If people are deliberately lying to pollsters *en masse*, which **is** a possibility, then Trump should do significantly better than the polls when it comes time to vote. Once today's votes have been counted and compared to polls over the previous week, we'll have evidence one way or the other for that theory. Conversely, if he does about as well as the polls predict, then that means they're pretty accurate.

    A few days ago I saw an article similar to the one you linked to from FiveThirtyEight (I think it was on RealClearPolitics which doesn't seem to have a way to see previous days news) that showed the current Republican per county voting pattern as a 3-way split with Trump having the poor/uneducated, Rubio/Kasich splitting the Afluent/Educated, and Cruz/Carson splitting the Evangelicals.

    @NathanLong You show me enough choices to represent the range of voter viewpoints and I'll show you a country crippled by its inability to lead convincingly. Just try an imagine a list of 30 candidates being tallied after the votes. "Our new POTUS is Bob Smith; who won with an astonishing 8% majority vote! That's .5% more than the runner-up!"

    @MonkeyZeus That's only if you use plurality voting, aka "first past the post." There are other systems that allow for majority voting. They generally involve having people either vote multiple times, or use some preference based system. My favorite is "instant runoff," which uses preference-based voting to simulate a sort of "kick off the island" approach. You start with, say, 5 candidates, and the fifth place gets kicked off, and anyone who voted for them gets their second choice. This is repeated until you get a majority.

    @trlkly So in order to execute this effectively, voters should just list their choices in preferential order from 1 to 5 and allow a computer to compute the "island kick-off". If a voter sincerely favors just one candidate then they can list just that one candidate so that they are not forced to essentially pick the "lesser evil" of the remaining 4 candidates?

    @MonkeyZeus my least favorite feature of our system is having to vote for a mediocre candidate because I think my preferred one can't win. Think Perot on the conservative side, Nader on the progressive side, and every independent candidate ever. It sounds like http://instantrunoff.com would give us representation that much better reflects what people want, and I think it would make a many-party system more feasible.

    @NathanLong - I agree. See this question and this one for some previous questions on the topic. There's alternatives, though. Another method is to allocate elected officials proportionally over a broader segment, rather than winner-take-all in individual districts. For example, a state could have voters simply vote for a party, and then allocate X% of the state's Representative seats to that party to assign, rather than one Rep per district. (This is similar to how parliamentary systems do it)

    @user4012 - 538's only position on that which I have seen is that 30% is probably his *floor*.

    I think the education divide speaks volumes about the economic divide as well. And add to that, the sense of disenfranchisement the non-college educated person would feel when he or she keeps seeing the local economy shrivel up and die whilst the "better offs" appear to be unaffected by the war and economy.

    @Acccumulation Did you post that on the wrong answer? That doesn’t seem to apply to this one.

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