In the coming days we’ll see a lot of pollsters—and poll aggregators—try to figure out where they went wrong. I’m not much of a horse-race analyst myself, but I can never resist the opportunity to whip up a few charts, so here’s a first step toward piecing together what the heck just happened.
First, here’s a chart plotting Romney’s vote share in 2012 against Trump’s yesterday, using the most recent data available as of this writing. A few of the data points have changed slightly since the charts I tweeted out this morning (and a few more since I started writing!), but the basic picture seems relatively set.
The most striking thing is how similar they are:
In all of these charts, the lines are drawn not to fit the data, but just to represent the point where the two performances are equal. From the one above, you might think Trump merely shifted votes around to some important swing states. But here’s the same chart for Clinton:
Basically, Trump managed to match his party’s 2012 performance in the typical state despite a rising share of the vote going to third parties. Clinton did not.
Here’s a final chart, representing the number of votes each candidate got relative to his or her predecessor. This one is the most sensitive to uncounted or misreported votes, so don’t read too much into it yet, but already it’s clear that Trump outperformed Romney in many key states (those to the right of 100 on the X axis) while Clinton rarely overperformed Obama (those above 100 on the Y axis). Some tiny fraction of this just represents changes in state populations, but in general the pattern stems from changes in turnout, voters who supported Obama and then Trump (or Romney and then Clinton), and defections to third parties.
DC is an especially interesting data point, considering it’s the nation’s capital: Clinton roughly matched Obama’s performance, while Trump barely topped half of Romney’s. It underscores the difficulty Trump may have in putting together an administration and working with the existing bureaucracy.
Robert VerBruggen is managing editor of The American Conservative.