This article was originally published at FiveThirtyEight on October 25, 2016
It’s the morning after the election, and while half the country is waking up breathing a sigh of relief, another large share is disappointed, angry or even panicked. But what demographic voting patterns propelled the winner to victory? How did those patterns play out in the Electoral College map? And what does it mean for the future of American politics?
We decided to take the Swing-O-Matic for a spin to sketch out a few scenarios, imagining how news stories on Nov. 9 will read. Which one will be closest to reality? We’ll find out in about two weeks. In the meantime, we invite you to share your thoughts or choose your own adventure to see how changes in turnout and party preference among different demographic groups may affect the outcome.
1. The Clinton landslideIn a staggering rejection of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, voters last night elected Hillary Clinton as the nation’s first female president, 53 percent to 41 percent — the widest margin in a presidential race since 1984. Clinton swept 30 states totaling 413 electoral votes. In an exclamation point, Clinton carried Arizona, Georgia and even Texas. Repudiating Trump, Utah gave its six electoral votes to conservative independent Evan McMullin.
Clinton’s landslide was fueled by record Democratic support among whites with a college degree, particularly women, as well as heightened turnout from Latino and Asian voters. Clinton won whites with a college degree by 10 percentage points, a huge turnaround from 2012, when Mitt Romney won them by 10 points. Black turnout and support remained steady from 2012, despite fears among Clinton backers that African-American enthusiasm would lag without President Obama on the ballot.
Turnout among Latinos surged from 47 percent to 57 percent, and Clinton won them by a massive 58 points, allowing Clinton to shock Trump in the Lone Star State. After plenty of hype, there was no uptick in turnout or support for Trump among whites without a college degree; he won them by about the same margin as Mitt Romney did. Moreover, support for third-party candidates was just 6 percent, lower than many pre-election polls had predicted.
Down ballot, Democrats swept all seven Senate races rated as “toss-ups” by the Cook Political Report, earning a 54 to 46 majority and even defeating Marco Rubio in Florida. They came within five seats of retaking the House, throwing Paul Ryan’s future as speaker into doubt. The magnitude of Clinton’s victory forced Republicans to re-evaluate their long-term national viability: Calling Trump a “cancer on conservatism,” GOP leaders vowed to purge Trump from the party — though it’s unclear they can.
2. Modest Clinton majorityHillary Clinton became the first woman to win the presidency last night, defeating Donald Trump by a comfortable margin — 50 percent to 42 percent — roughly in line with what polls predicted. Clinton swept all 26 states that President Obama had carried in 2012, plus Arizona, North Carolina and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, for a total of 359 electoral votes. In a stunning repudiation of Trump, Utah gave its six electoral votes to conservative independent Evan McMullin.
Clinton’s bare majority was primarily the product of an attitudinal sea change among whites with a college degree, who supported her by 8 percentage points after supporting Mitt Romney by 10 points in 2012. Although Trump boosted turnout of whites without a college degree from 55 percent to 59 percent and black turnout declined slightly from 2012, Latino turnout jumped from 47 percent to 53 percent and Clinton won them by 48 points.
Down ballot, Democrats won a 52-to-48 majority in the Senate, sweeping all Senate races rated as “toss-ups” by the Cook Political Report except Florida and Missouri. Democrats also picked up 15 House seats, cutting Speaker Paul Ryan’s margin in half and leaving him with much less room for error. Although Ryan and GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence offered Clinton their congratulations, at press time Trump had still not offered a formal concession.
3. 2012 Map reduxAfter the most toxic and divisive presidential campaign in modern history, Hillary Clinton was elected the nation’s first female president last night, defeating Donald Trump 48 percent to 44 percent. However, in spite of Trump’s scandals and defiance of democratic norms, Clinton managed to win by only about the same 4 percentage point margin that President Obama won by four years ago. Clinton and Trump each won 25 states: Trump turned Iowa and Ohio red, but Clinton turned North Carolina blue, for a total of 322 electoral votes — 10 fewer than Obama picked up in 2012.
The results revealed a historic education gap: Clinton carried whites with a college degree with 52 percent, but Trump carried whites without a college degree with a massive 64 percent — allowing him to carry Iowa, Ohio and even Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, even in defeat. Turnout was down across the board from 2012, save for slight increases among noncollege whites and Latinos. Clinton carried African-American voters by 84 percentage points.
Down ballot, Democrats were on track to control 50 Senate seats to Republicans’ 49, technically enough for a majority because Vice President-elect Tim Kaine would break a tie in Democrats’ favor. Democrats picked up Illinois, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, while North Carolina’s race is headed for a recount. Democrats gained 13 House seats, for a total of 201 — the same number they held after the 2012 election.
Republicans immediately split over the outcome: While Trump and many close allies called for investigations into voter fraud, other GOP officials simply warned that Clinton’s lack of a clear majority amounted to a repudiation of both candidates and a mandate to oppose her legislative aims.
4. Narrow Clinton nail-biterIn a much narrower-than-expected victory, Hillary Clinton was elected the nation’s first female president last night, 47 percent to 45 percent. But Donald Trump’s refusal to concede after his surprisingly strong showing threatened to plunge the nation into chaos. Trump carried all 24 states that Mitt Romney won in 2012, plus Florida, Iowa and Ohio. Clinton won just 23 states and barely hung on, thanks to a narrow 278-to-260 edge in electoral votes.
It wasn’t until Philadelphia’s final precincts reported votes around 1 a.m. that Clinton edged ahead in Pennsylvania, its 20 electoral votes barely nudging her across the finish line. In both a defiant speech at Trump Tower and an irate 3 a.m. Twitter rant, Trump accused Democrats of busing Camden, New Jersey, residents to pose as dead Philadelphians. Congressional Republicans joined Trump in calling for an inquiry into voter fraud and late-reporting precincts.
Clinton carried African-Americans by 82 percentage points and Latinos by 46 points. She also carried college-educated whites, a group Romney had won, by 2 points. But turnout among those groups remained fairly stable compared to 2012. Meanwhile, turnout among whites without a college degree spiked from 55 percent to 59 percent — and in a warning shot to elites, Trump carried them by 32 percentage points, a big improvement over Romney’s 22-point margin.
Compounding the chaos, the Senate was still on a knife’s edge. Democrats held Nevada and picked up Illinois, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, guaranteeing them at least 49 seats. But in Pennsylvania, GOP Sen. Pat Toomey’s lead appeared narrow enough for a recount to settle Senate control. In the House, Democrats narrowed the GOP’s majority by 10 seats. Amid civil unrest, it was clear Clinton would have enormous work to do to heal a badly divided nation.
5. Trump shocks the worldIn a stunning rebuke of elites, Donald Trump edged out Hillary Clinton for the presidency last night, jolting world markets and sending shock waves across a beleaguered political establishment. Trump captured 294 electoral votes, flipping Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to the GOP column. With millions of votes left to tabulate in California and New York, Clinton was on track to win a worthless popular vote plurality.
After one of the worst polling misses of all time, election “forecasters” and experts were left scratching their heads. Trump credited his “Silent Majority” for swarming polling places and himself for leading a blue-collar revolution. Indeed, turnout among whites without a college degree surged from 55 percent in 2012 to 64 percent in 2016, and Trump carried them by 35 percentage points. Validating the “shy Trump voter” theory, Trump defied expectations by nearly tying Clinton among whites with a college degree.
Democrats faulted third-party “spoilers” and a lack of enthusiasm among their base for Clinton’s loss. Latinos voted for Clinton by 47 percentage points, but their turnout barely increased over 2012. Meanwhile, African-American turnout fell to 56 percent from 63 percent four years ago. Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Independent Evan McMullin combined for 11 percent, severely eating into Clinton’s margin among millennials.
Down ballot, Republicans easily held the Senate, sweeping all seven races rated as “toss-ups” by the Cook Political Report for a 53-to-47 seat majority — just one seat down from their current tally after losing seats in Illinois and Wisconsin and gaining Nevada. Democrats gained a paltry five House seats, leaving Speaker Paul Ryan with a solid 242-to-193 majority and stirring talk among disappointed Democrats that it’s time for fresh leadership to replace Nancy Pelosi.
Several high-ranking Democrats, haunted by the prospect of reliving their 2000 nightmare and noting that Trump was on track to receive fewer than 45 percent of all votes cast, called for the abolition of the Electoral College. Meanwhile, in his victory speech, Trump immediately praised the integrity of the vote, congratulating state and local officials on their “tremendous” work to ensure a fraud-free election.