How Trump Won, by the Numbers

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Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Going into Tuesday night, there were countless numbers one could cite to explain why Donald Trump was about to lose the 2016 presidential election — the national and swing-state polling averages, the probabilities in forecasters’ models, the odds available on betting markets, Barack Obama’s high approval rating, the Clinton campaign’s advantage in ad dollars and field offices, to name just a few.

But Trump won anyway. Here’s how he did that, as told by the numbers from Tuesday’s exit polls.

The race produced a record gender gap — but one that had more to do with Trump’s strength among men than Clinton’s among women.
In 2012, Mitt Romney won men by 7 points, while Obama won women by 11. Clinton improved on that margin by a single point — Trump improved on Romney’s by 5.

Trump’s long history of virulent misogyny — including his tape-recorded boasts about grabbing women’s genitals without their permission — did not cost him the GOP’s traditional share of the female vote. The president-elect won white women by 10 points. Among college-educated women, he lost by only 6. Polls anticipated that Clinton would enjoy a much wider margin with the demographic.

Trump’s outsize strength among men generated a 24-point gap, the largest ever recorded, exceeding the record set in the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000.

Nonwhite voters did not turn out for Clinton in numbers sufficient enough to overcome Trump’s strength among whites.
African-Americans accounted for 12 percent of the electorate, down from 13 percent in 2012. And while Latino turnout increased, it did not do so by the margins that Democrats had anticipated, inching up only 1 percentage point, from 10 percent four years ago to 11 percent Tuesday night.

The white share of the electorate declined by 2 points, to 70 percent. Trump won America’s racial majority in a landslide, taking college-educated whites by a margin of 53 to 43 percent, and the non-college-educated by 72 to 23.

That latter margin was especially significant. As of this writing, Clinton retains a narrow advantage in the popular vote. But non-college-educated whites make up a disproportionate share of the population in the midwestern swing states that provided Trump his decisive Electoral College majority.

Trump outperformed Romney among a variety of traditionally Democratic constituencies.
While low turnout among Democratic constituencies was a major factor, Trump also improved upon Romney’s share of those demographics.

Clinton won union households — the onetime backbone of the Democratic Party — by only 8 points. For Obama in 2012, that margin was 18. The narrowness of Clinton’s advantage is especially jarring, considering that public employees now account for roughly half of all union members in the United States, and such workers are disproportionately nonwhite and female.

While the most economically vulnerable people in America voted against Trump by a wider margin than any other income bracket, they nonetheless gave him markedly more support than they did any other recent Republican nominee. Trump lost voters who earn under $30,000 by a far less than Mitt Romney, John McCain, or George W. Bush did.

Finally, Trump even improved on Romney’s support among African-American and Hispanic voters, albeit marginally. The mogul won 29 percent of Latinos, compared to Romney’s 27, and 8 percent of African-Americans, compared to the previous GOP nominee’s 7 percent.

More significantly, Clinton claimed only 65 percent support from Latinos and 88 percent support from black voters; for Obama, those figures were 71 and 93 percent, respectively.

A significant number of young voters defected to third parties.
According to CNN’s exit poll, 9 percent of voters between 18 and 29 cast a ballot for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. No other age group has more antipathy for Trump than those under 30. If they hadn’t been provided third-party alternatives — and chose to turn out, anyway — these voters likely would have narrowed Clinton’s deficit in some key swing states.

Trump won Republicans who weren’t crazy about him.
Trump routinely boasted the highest unfavorable numbers of any presidential candidate in recorded history. But 15 percent of those who disapproved of Trump voted for him anyway, according to NPR.