Before we dive into the painful subject of what happened in the presidential race — and why the surveys we all relied on didn’t predict the outcome — we take brief note of a Field Poll released yesterday, which looks forward to the 2018 California governor’s race and contains good news and bad news for Gavin Newsom.
As former mayor of San Francisco, current lite governor and high-profile ballot prop sponsor, Prince Gavin carries name recognition that now places him ahead of the two Republicans and six other Democrats tested in the survey, with 23% of the vote.
However: Newsom, who announced for governor back in February of last year, has failed to do what Kamala Harris did in the 2016 Senate race – effectively clear the field of potentially strong Democratic candidates, especially not the mayor and the former mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti and Antonio Villaraigosa, and businessman activist Tom Steyer.
Of course, polling this early (and even close to the election as we’ll discuss later) tells us practically nothing except that GOP voters tend to flock to the Republican candidates – like potential contenders Mayors Kevin Faulconer of San Diego and Ashley Swearengin of Fresno, who clock 16% and 11% respectively if they’re identified as Republicans. Without party ID, their support in the survey drops since neither of them has much statewide name recognition.
One interesting side note: 42% of Republicans surveyed seem to prefer Faulconer compared to 31% for Swearengin if told that they’re GOP officeholders. But neither of them supported Donald Trump for president nor do they serve in partisan positions. It’s hard to imagine that if either ran for governor he or she – once identified as a Republican — would do much better than statewide GOP registration, which is now below 30%.
No, no, no the LAT/USC poll was not right. Now that the gasbag Tony Quinn has attacked us over at the Fox and Hounds blog for making the same wrong prediction about Hillary Clinton’s election as president, along with every other serious political writer (including the Los Angeles Times), we wish to inform has-been Quinn how wrong he is when he says the LA Times/USC poll was “exactly right.”
As we have mentioned before and will say yet again – the LA Times/USC poll was correct in predicting a Trump victory. But its prediction was based on the popular vote – not the electoral vote – and its measure of the popular vote was more wrong (but in Trump’s favor) than almost any other major survey.
What actually happened:
Had Clinton won 54,287 more votes spread across Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, she would have been elected president instead of the loathsome Donald Trump; the pollsters would be congratulating themselves on the accuracy of their national projections; the Democratic Party would not be engaged in baseless angst about its relationship to working-class America; most importantly, Calbuzz would not look stupid, given that we scooped the world on Hillary’s triumph a day before the election.
Moreover, the Los Angeles Times/USC poll would be viewed as inaccurate as it actually was. The poll missed the nationwide vote that it purported to measure by an even larger margin than the rest of the national pollsters. The best pollsters’ estimates, when all the votes are counted, will wind up extremely close to the final popular vote margins. They missed on who would win the most electoral votes and thus be elected (as did we and Times political writers, who forecast she would collect 352 EVs).
As of Tuesday, the popular vote was 62,318,079 for Clinton and 61,166,063 for Trump – a difference so far of 1,152,016 votes or about a 1% margin that is sure to go up as California’s massive vote continues to be counted. Clinton likely will end up with about two million more votes than Trump (and perhaps a 2% margin), despite losing the Electoral College and the presidency thanks to our arcane system that gives small states, not to mention those that historically sanctioned slavery, outsize influence.
More people voted for Clinton. As of this writing, Trump is winning Pennsylvania by 68,236 votes, Wisconsin by 27,257 and Michigan by an excruciating 13,080 – a total of 108,573 over three states that Clinton and every pollster in America thought were bricks in the Blue Wall.
What happened? Most national polls measuring Clinton’s total popular vote against Trump were right on the money, but the polls in key states – especially Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania (also Florida and North Carolina) – clearly and incorrectly were based on likely-voter models that failed to take into account the strength of Trump’s appeal to non-urban white voters – men in particular – who unwisely voted with a vengeance against Clinton and the Establishment and for Trump and whatever change they somehow believe he will effect.
Pre-election polling also suggests that FBI Director James Comey’s letter on Clinton’s emails had a powerful effect on voters who were on the fence about backing her. We won’t even mention the fact, (now turning to Trump Talk, in order to mention it after saying we won’t) that the MSM gave Trump a billion-dollar free ride to rise in the polls through the GOP primaries and only rarely caught up with his lies and outrages. Or that they hounded her about her damn emails as if they were the equivalent of all his misdeeds, misbehaviors and worse. Asshats.
According to the exit polls (which are suspect on various counts) not enough women found the prospect of the first non-male president, let alone Trump’s favorable views on sexual assault, compelling enough arguments to cross over party lines. This shows that party, more than any other demographic characteristic, almost always is the most powerful predictor of an individual’s vote.
The Clinton campaign writ large – and it’s a mistake to blame the candidate alone for this – made some spectacular tactical blunders in failing to nail down its blue firewall in the industrial Midwest and instead dabbled in places like Arizona, which were never necessary to reach 270 electoral votes.
Of course it was the economy, stupid. The problem was NOT that Clinton failed to offer an adequate message to working-class voters, despite the latest incorrect conventional wisdom narrative concocted by MSM commentators and much of the Democratic Party’s Sanders wing.
According to the exit polls (despite our doubts, they are at least a data point that roughly indicate trends), Clinton beat Trump 52-41% among voters with incomes under $50,000, while Trump won 49-47% among voters with incomes greater than $50,000. The critical voters, if the exit polls can be believed, were the 31% of voters with incomes between $50,000 and $99,999, who voted 50-46% for Trump.
In most parts of the country these are middle-class voters differentiated even more so by education: college graduates would have elected Clinton 52-43% while non-college graduates chose Trump 52-44%. That is THE difference, since both groups of voters comprised half of the exit-poll sample.
The data confirm what Jonathan Rothwell, a Gallup economist, wrote back in July: “Americans who have a favorable opinion of Trump are slightly more likely to be employed and no more likely to be out of the labor force than those who see him unfavorably.”
Psst! She got more votes. What the sponsors of the exit polls – the networks, cables, big papers and wire services – have never reported clearly (we had to calculate the numbers) is that in their exits, Trump beat Clinton 46.8-46.7% in the popular vote.
Which is, as we know by now, DEAD WRONG. At last count Clinton was ahead of Trump 47.8% to 46.9%. Of course, all this is within margins of error but as pollsters are happy to explain, the margins of error only get larger when you start looking at subsamples of the total population.
So recognizing that the numbers here for Latinos especially are likely understated, let’s not sugarcoat what happened last week in the election: white people — especially white men without a college education — put Donald Trump in the White House. People of color and those with college educations, would have overwhelmingly elected Clinton, period, paragraph, end of story.
Remorse and regret. Along with both presidential campaigns and virtually every political reporter in the world, we trusted horserace polls that foresaw a Clinton victory.
Beyond that, however, our President Clinton forecast consistently rested on one extraordinary fact: every pre-election survey (as well exit polls) found that nearly two-thirds of all voters say Trump is unfit to president.
Given that, we didn’t believe he could be elected — apologies for a failure of imagination.