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Presidential Candidate Support: Demographic Analysis


Given that there’s always lots of speculation about who is supporting which candidate, let’s look at what an actual poll says and examine what that tells us.

I intend to discuss the results of a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. You can read about it and see all the numbers here. In particular, I’m interested in the demographics of each voting preference. Let’s see what conventional wisdom gets taken down a peg!

This race will be a shoo-in for Hillary Clinton.

It certainly doesn’t look that way now. For a variety of reasons too numerous and complex to get into here, it’s a very close race. Clinton need only slip a couple points to give the election to Donald Trump.

Third party support is strong.

At the moment, this appears to be true. Gary Johnson is now polling at 9%, with Jill Stein behind at 2%. Stein’s performance has been lackluster, though–the Green Party candidate is clearly not making any ground against the Libertarian candidate, nor drawing votes from anyone else. So, while third party support appears relatively robust for this point in the cycle, Stein’s giving a disappointing showing. The reasons for this become clear later!

Trump is benefiting from a sexism dividend.

This one is consistently borne out by poll after poll. Trump is getting a 6-point advantage among men, and has a 40-point lead among white men without college degrees.

Trump is viewed as an underdog.

Despite the polls currently being quite close, 58% of likely respondents expect Clinton to win, vs. 29% for Trump–and his numbers have been falling, there. Clearly, there’s not a lot of confidence that he will actually win.

This election is defying expectations.

Turns out this isn’t the case at all. For all the talk that Democrats don’t like Clinton and Republicans hate Trump, the fact remains that 90% of Democrats plan to vote for Clinton, and 86% of Republicans plan to vote for Trump. Where are the rest going? The remaining Democrats are split between Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, while the Republicans who didn’t (and won’t) support Trump have broken overwhelmingly for Johnson. It turns out very few Sanders supporters are going to Trump (indeed, only 2%!).

In other words, the vast majority of people are voting for their usual party, despite how “unlikable” each candidate is described as being. This election isn’t defying expectations at all in terms of party support. Perhaps this illustrates how resilient party preferences are, even in the presence of an unusually bad candidate in the form of Donald Trump.

Trump’s support is coming from the white working class.

Nope! Some numbers are presented here. Trump is capturing 40% of voters making less than $50,000 a year, 40% of voters making $50K-100K a year, and 41% of voters making more than $100K a year–in other words, there’s not really an income-based slant in his support. Clinton’s numbers are fairly similar in their distribution: 47%, 48%, and 42%, respectively.

Trump will be huge among blacks and Hispanics.

OK, in all fairness, nobody outside Trump’s reality distortion bubble believes this, but how about some cold, hard numbers? Trump is getting 50% of white people overall, which is actually worse than he should as a Republican candidate, but he’s only getting 13% of the non-white vote which is downright disastrous. Meanwhile, Clinton is poised to get 75% of the non-white vote: 93% of the black vote, and 64% of the Hispanic vote.

Trump is popular among young people.

This is another one that I don’t think anyone takes seriously, but Trump and his surrogates tout it anyway. Facts: Trump’s support among the under-40 set is terrible. He’s getting only 24% of that vote, contrasted with 47% for Clinton. In the 40-64 and 65+ brackets, he’s getting 47% and 45%, respectively. Clinton’s numbers for those brackets: 43% and 50%. Here, we can actually give senior voters some credit, as they apparently support Clinton over Trump! It may not be by a huge margin but it’s important that that support exists at all.

Trump’s voters are uneducated.

Pretty clearly true. Trump has a 7-point advantage among likely voters with a high school diploma or less. That edge steadily disappears with every higher level of educational attainment–a clear progression that shows a high correlation between education and support for Trump.

This situation becomes even more pronounced when you narrow down to white people without college degrees. His edge becomes a full 28 points. If we’re talking about only white men without college degrees, you find what seems to be the core of his support: 64% vs. 24% for Clinton.

Trump is winning the Christian vote.

I didn’t expect this to be the case, but it seems that it is. Trump’s support is especially strong among evangelical Protestants. Among non-evangelicals, the vote is split, but Trump has an edge with Catholics, as well.

So, what are the strongest demographics for each candidate?

  * **Clinton:** black people, voters aged 65+, college graduates.
  * **Trump:** white men aged 40+ who lacking college degrees, evangelical Protestants, and Catholics.
  * **Johnson: **voters under 40, white college graduates.
  * **Stein:** voters who didn't finish college. (No joke, Stein has oddly strong performance among those with "some college" but no degree.)

It should go without saying that Johnson and Stein have no chance in the general election, though.

I plan to watch tonight’s debate and come back tomorrow with some kind of report on it. I think I’ll focus on what each candidate says in terms of policies and attempt to discern whether they are articulating genuine policies and how plausible those policies might be. I do not want to pay attention to mudslinging and smears, of which I anticipate embarrassing quantities.

If you want to watch the debate, there are a multitude of ways for you to do so, so you have no excuse! According to a poll I saw, 75% of voters plan to watch the debates but 87% say their minds are already made up. 13% is a lot of people who can still be swung!

Photo by MikeSpeaks