Summary: The results of the election are in! The Republic lost, with a new President who got second place in the public vote. Then came a barrage of lies about the simple facts of the election, propaganda which our institutions seem unable to fight. Can we reform the Electoral College before 2020? That will show if the Republic remains vital or has become decrepit. The clock is running.
- Who won?
- How accurate were the polls?
- Our necessary response.
- For More Information.
(1) Who won?
The right-wing lie machine is gearing up to deceive Americans about the 2016 vote. The lies start at the top. We must draw a line in the sand beyond which we become a reality-based community. Let’s start now.
Trump won the Electoral College (EC) 57% to 43%, with (tentatively) 306 votes to Clinton’s 232. See this sortable table of historical EC results. Trump’s EC margin is the 46th largest among the 58 presidential elections. The lies about this continue, despite being obviously false. On Nov 27 Trump tweeted “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide…” An unsigned statement from Trump’s transition team on Dec 9 said “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history.” On Nov 28 by Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said…
306. Landslide. Blowout. Historic. https://t.co/ObYZDo8cBq
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) November 28, 2016
What about the popular vote? Most of the ballots have been counted. The current totals show Clinton with over 2.8 million more votes than Trump, winning by 2.1%. See this sortable table of election results. Trump has the third largest losing margin among the five presidents that lost the popular vote. But on Nov 27 Trump tweeted “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Like sheep, conservatives quickly adopted that as scripture, despite the near-total lack of evidence for Trump’s claim.
Trump never produced evidence to back his words. Conservatives eventually found an October 2014 WaPo article by two professors speculating — on the basis of a small sample — that there might be large-scale voting by illegal immigrants. As shown in the WaPo update to the article, it was extensively rebutted by other experts — including a peer-reviewed paper. Following Trump’s claims, experts gave extensive rebuttal evidence (here, here, and here) — ignored by conservatives.
How could Trump get 46% of the popular vote (a 2% loss) create a 57% win in the Electoral College? The winner-take-all voting in EC (used by all states except Maine and Nebraska) tends to magnify wins. Still this was an unusual election, with the largest gap between the popular and EC votes in 150 years. The LAT explains why: “Clinton won as many votes as Obama in 2012 — just not in the states where she needed them most“. Nate Silver shows how a 2% shift in the popular vote can create a landslide for either candidate.
Trump won, because the Electoral College chooses the President.
(2) How accurate were the polls?
The last average of 4-way polls tracked by RealClearPolitics gave Clinton a 3.2% lead. The national polls have margins of error of +/- 3.0% to 3.5% at the 95% confidence level. This is sampling error. They seldom attempt to quantify other kinds of errors: Coverage Error, Measurement Error, and Non-Response Error. For details see this Cornell page about polling error. So the actual margin by Clinton of 2.1% was well within the polls’ margin of error. Costas Panagopoulos (prof of political science, Fordham) analyzed the accuracy of the polls, using the early (too small) 1.9% estimate of Clinton’s win.
“Overall, the average poll overestimated support for Clinton, although not significantly. One poll, conducted by the Los Angeles Times/USC appears to have had a statistically-significant partisan (pro-Trump) bias, and only the poll conducted by NBC News/SurveyMonkey had a significant pro-Clinton bias.”
All those headlines about the polls being wildly off — were premature. The state polls proved to be less accurate, but had higher margins of error — often from 4% to 6%. See Drew Linzer‘s (statistician) analysis (especially the graphs).
The most obviously wrong forecasts from the pollsters were their probability estimates. Nate Silver’s 538 boasts that their final forecast gave Trump a 29% chance of winning the Electoral College.
(3) Our necessary response.
“It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again’.”
— A tweet by Donald Trump.
Trump is absolutely right. The odd Electoral College (EC) was a tolerable kludge while it produced the same outcome as the popular vote. Which it did, misfiring only twice in 176 years (1876 and 1888 during 1824-2000). But it has misfired twice in the past 5 elections: in 2000 and 2016. That’s clear evidence that the EC is broken. We have four years to fix it.
The EC fit the needs of the Founders. Giving votes to the States made sense in the early Republic, when peoples’ allegiance was often more to their State than to the United States — boosting the power of the slave states (who got EC votes for their non-voting slaves). But for centuries the core principle of Britain and the USA has been one person, one vote. That extended the franchise from property owners to all white men, then to Black men, and then to women.
Giving different people in America different votes (by weight) is an intolerable glitch in the system. Why should some voters have more weight than those of other citizens? New York, Florida, and California each have around 500,000 people for each electoral vote; Wyoming has 143,000 people for each electoral votes — 3.5 times the weight (as of 2012). Citizens in these big states have 29% the voting weight of small states. Even slaves were weighted at 60%.
Each time the EC elects a president who lost the popular vote, we get a president with low legitimacy. Each time it happens, the resulting public cynicism will grow worse. Confidence in the Republic’s institutions is already perilously low. Conservatives in rapture at the over-weighting of rural voters — which gives them power — ignore these effects.
Like most problems affecting core aspects of systems, it will grow worse with time — probably going critical at an inopportune time. A political regime undergoing senescence (aging) loses its ability to adapt and reform. Our ability to fix the EC will show if the Republic still has vitality, or if we are in its last days.
(4) For More Information.
- Breaking the myths about Campaign 2016, so we can prepare for 2020.
- Clinton lost because fear failed, and her SJW’s terrified voters.
- Clinton’s ads show her weak strategy: purely tribal, no content.