How U.S. Demographic Changes Explain Election Results

Nov 9, 2016
Originally published on November 9, 2016 6:35 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Donald Trump's victory last night surprised many. So how did he do it? Joining me now to talk about that are NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro and NPR's Asma Khalid, who covers demographics for us. Good to see you both.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hi, Robert.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hi.

SIEGEL: Asma, let me start with you first. After Mitt Romney's loss in 2012, one of the big conclusions of the Republican National Committee's so-called autopsy examination of what went wrong was that it was no longer possible to win the presidency just with white voters. It seems like that turned out to be not so true this year.

KHALID: That's right. And part of that is because although the minority share of the electorate is growing, the electorate is still overwhelmingly white. If we look at the exit polls from last night, about 70 percent of voters were white. And, Robert, I think what we saw sort of as a big divide - and you could say was sort of a key point for Donald Trump last night - was how white working-class voters decided to cast their ballots.

So if I can give you some perspective, in the 1990s when Bill Clinton ran for president, blue-collar whites were pretty much evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Last night, Donald Trump won this group nationally by roughly 40 points. And that was even key if we look at states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. Those three states - Barack Obama seemed to do well. He seemed to win the white working-class vote in 2008. All three of those states - the working class vote went for Donald Trump last night.

SIEGEL: And it's a big group. It's a big - a big sector of the electorate. Domenico, what happened to Barack Obama's winning coalition of voters from 2008 and 2012?

MONTANARO: (Laughter) Well, suffice to say, they were not fired up and ready to go, Robert.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: Yes, I remember that.

MONTANARO: You know, Clinton didn't turn them out. Turnout was down overall, but far more for Hillary Clinton. You know, at this point, Donald Trump has gotten fewer votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012. So - and most of those voters - or many of those voters - were from this Obama coalition - young voters, African-Americans, Latinos - key places like in Milwaukee - off by 50,000 votes for Hillary Clinton. She wound up losing by 27,000 for the entire state of Wisconsin. In Michigan, Wayne County, where Detroit is - she's off by 80,000 votes compared to Barack Obama, and she lost the state by 11,000 votes overall.

SIEGEL: These are places where she won, but not by a big enough margin to offset...

MONTANARO: Exactly.

SIEGEL: ...The losses elsewhere in the state. Asma, let's talk about women voters. How did Hillary Clinton do with that group?

KHALID: Well, there was an expectation that Hillary Clinton would win women. And she did do well with women, you could say, collectively, but she did not win white women as a voting bloc. And I think what was really interesting is some folks looked at college education levels. She did seem to do well - she seemed to win white college educated women, but not by huge margins. And, in particular, you know, the college education vote, I think, surprised a lot of folks. We had seen in the polls leading up to this Election Day that she seemed to have an edge with college-educated voters. But we saw that men, in particular - white college-educated men - overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump.

MONTANARO: And, look, non-college-educated men is going to be the big key here, but, you know, don't overlook non-college women. I mean, a lot of Tea Party supporters - when I went to a lot of those rallies that I covered then, you had people showing up at rallies with AstroTurf cut out over their - over their bodies and saying, you know, we're not AstroTurf. We're grassroots. So they're - they were fired up, as well.

SIEGEL: Well, let me ask about another group, and that was the Latino vote. Was there a true surge of Hispanic voters before Election Day?

MONTANARO: Well, yes and no. I mean, I think that you could point to specific places where we may see a fundamental realignment. Places like Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Texas, even Georgia - you saw an increase. Texas, for example - you know, the vote was within 10 points for the first time in 20 years. Part of that is because of the Latino vote. So we may be seeing a fundamental political shift in this country where you have Latino voters moving slightly more toward Democrats and in bigger numbers as they demographically move into the electorate. But Hillary Clinton still didn't get enough of them to put her over the top overall.

SIEGEL: But you're describing one part of a shift. You're saying there could be more Latino voters giving the Democrats more strength. But if there are more white working-class voters voting Republican, that might - that might counteract that.

KHALID: For the short term, I think it will. I mean, they're - the white working-class vote is a shrinking part of the population. The Latino electorate is growing. But, Robert, one thing which was very interesting to me that may tie in a bit to the Latino vote is that we saw young voters not support Hillary Clinton with the same sort of vigor or enthusiasm as they came out for Barack Obama. And we know that Hispanics are overwhelmingly a young population. But last thing is I think we will get a better picture of Latino turnout when we see the census numbers. A majority of Latinos did not participate in 2012. We'll see whether or not a majority voted this year.

SIEGEL: OK. That's NPR's that's Asma Khalid and Domenico Montanaro. Thanks to you both.

MONTANARO: Thank you.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.