Panelists discuss election and polls

by Sunpreet Singh | 11/11/16 1:14am

Last night, the Rockefeller Center hosted a panel called “Finally It’s Over: The 2016 Election and Its Aftermath,” in which panelists discussed the presidential, state and congressional election results and voter demographic trends.

Rockefeller Center Associate Director Ron Shaiko moderated the discussion between government professors Brendan Nyhan and Dean Lacy.

The panel was divided into three parts, with Nyhan discussing the presidential race, Lacy discussing the congressional races and Shaiko discussing state races.

Nyhan noted that Hillary Clinton won among minorities and won among college-educated whites by 14 points, whereas Donald Trump won amongst whites without college degrees by 10 points. Whites without college degrees constitute a larger portion of the population than whites with college degrees.

While almost all of the polls heading into the election favored Clinton, Nyhan said the traditional models were more accurate. Those models,based on the state of the economy in the second quarter of 2016 and presidential approval ratings, both favored Trump.

“This year’s presidential polls were somewhat off, but they were not very different from what was expected so the panic and chaos about the polling errors is overstated,” he said.

Nyhan noted that this election moved away from the traditional divide between liberals and conservatives to a divide between the establishment and anti-establishment forces.

When asked about how tight the presidential race really was, all panelists agreed that if only one in 100 Trump supporters switched sides to support Clinton, she would have flipped key states like Michigan and won the Electoral College.

Nyhan said Trump sparked a surge in Republican support in the upper-Midwest states, which tended to vote for Democratic candidates in past presidential elections.

Lacy noted the decrease in the amount of Democratic votes this election. In 2012, President Barack Obama had 65 million votes and Mitt Romney had 61 million, whereas Clinton and Trump both had 60 million votes this year.

He then attributed the disappearance of nine million Democratic votes from 2008 to 2016 to her lackluster performance with African-Americans and middle-aged women, the latter of which was a demographic Clinton was expected to easily win.

Ultimately, the panelists pointed to working-class whites as being the key demographic in this election.

“Working-class whites went from being an essential part of the Democratic party to being forgotten and then to being forgotten by the Republican party, so they turned to a Donald Trump candidacy,” Shaiko said.

Lacy added that the rise of white working-class voters points to an increasing trend of populism throughout the United States and the rest of the world. He pointed to Brexit as an example, which he said indicated a growing tide against globalization and multiculturalism.

The panelists also added that they expect Trump to act more presidentially as a right-wing conservative, saying that he will most likely enact tax cuts, overturn Obamacare, and change immigration policies in his first 100 days of office.

Correction appended (Nov. 12, 2016): 

The original version of this article mistakenly identified Virginia as a state Hillary Clinton lost as well as the year in which Barack Obama ran against Mitt Romney. The article has been updated to correct these errors. 

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