By Stephen A. Nuño
This was not a normal election and political scientists were wrong every step of the way.
From the primary on through to election night, Trump defeated the odds and overwhelmed the math with brute force.
Though there will be attempts to place Clinton’s loss on the laps of African Americans and Latinos for not turning out, these kinds of statements are misplaced for several reasons.
For example, the composition of the electorate was not strongly Democrat. Exit polls placed their share of the voters at 37 percent. This is the same share of the electorate Democrats held in 2004 when John Kerry lost. Democrats under Clinton could not maintain the levels of turnout among their voters that President Barack Obama did.
Another factor that may contribute to low turnout is the impact of the dismantling of voter protection laws following the Supreme Court decision, Shelby v. Holder. In states like Georgia and North Carolina, the Voting Rights Act was long relied upon by minorities to defend against stringent electoral laws that had the effect of reducing voter turnout.
Without the stronger protections of the Voting Rights Act, researchers will need to analyze the impact this may have had on minorities.
Along with turnout, the exit polls illustrate some peculiarities in the electorate. For example, even though Trump ran on a campaign explicitly targeting undocumented immigrants, the exit polls say that 70 percent of voters prefer a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants.
Another peculiarity is that 53 percent of voters in the exit polls said they approved of Obama, the same percent who approved of him as in 2012 when he won the Presidency.
And yet many who approved of Obama chose to vote for Donald Trump, a candidate who had run explicitly as the anti-Obama.
The numbers suggested Clinton was not able to inspire African Americans in the way Obama did. Whereas Obama garnered 95 percent of the black vote, exit polls show only 88 percent of African Americans cast their vote for Clinton.
Most surprisingly, official exit polls show Trump won 29 percent of the Latino vote; Romney had won 27 percent in 2012. For researchers, this may be confounding. Data from pre-election polls gathered by other polling first show Trump’s share of the Latino vote closer to 18 percent.
The polling firm Latino Decisions set off a Twitter storm after the release of early exit poll data that showed high support for Trump.
As with Latinos, black men voted for Trump in higher numbers than their female counterparts, at 13 percent compared to 4 percent of black women.
However, one of the more difficult parts of the electorate to predict are new voters.
While the number of new voters last night were not much different than in 2008, about 10 percent, Clinton only won 56 percent of those first-time voters, while Obama won 69 percent of first-time voters in 2008.
Explaining this will take time and effort given all the data we have seen to date on Latino voters. As the data comes in, analysts will need to check their models and the assumptions underlying them. For now, we await what a President Trump will do and what that means for the kind of America we want to be.