Where did all the Voters Go?

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Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. As the gap between Clinton and Trump in terms of the popular vote widens, many are asking the question: Why did he win? Many of his supporters claim that his policies and anger towards establishment politics motivated Americans to come out and vote for Donald Trump, but election results show that Trump received near or fewer votes than Mitt Romney who lost to Barack Obama. If Hillary Clinton had matched Obama’s support in many battleground states, she would have won the presidency. It isn’t likely that Trump’s showmanship, personality, or promises won him the election, but the decrease in voter turnout and support for Hillary in swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania permitted Trump to win these key states.

In Wisconsin, Trump received practically the same results as Romney received in 2012. The reason Trump won Wisconsin is that despite similar total votes cast, Clinton lost 300,000 votes to Third-Party candidates and people who voted in the election, but did not vote for president.


In Michigan, voter turnout and votes cast in 2016 were similar to the 2012 election. The reason Trump won in Michigan, like Wisconsin, was because of Clinton losing support. Democratic support dropped by 300,000 votes, which was divided between Trump, who gained around 100,000 more votes than Romney, and Third-Party candidates who gained around 200,000 more votes than in 2012. Michigan Democrats, who had turned out for Obama in 2012, turned to Third-Party candidates, handing 16 electoral votes to Trump.


While Trump outperformed Romney in Pennsylvania, if Clinton had performed at Obama’s level in 2012, where he won the state by 300,000 votes, she would have won Pennsylvania. In 2008, Obama inspired almost 3,300,000 Pennsylvanians to vote for him (the most votes a candidate has ever received in the history of Pennsylvania), winning by close to 700,000 votes. Obama’s 2008 total in Pennsylvania would have beaten Donald Trump by 600,000 votes.

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Where did all the Voters Go?