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Making Sense of Donald Trump (part 3)

The interesting thing about the election is that although it happened on one day, and the outcome was known that same evening, and it was weeks later before the outlines of what actually happened started to become clear, and the election itself is still not completely understood. This may at first sound puzzling, since the election happened two months ago. But to actually understand the election researchers need to look at voting rolls down to the precinct level and compare this to other sources of data, including past election data and other available demographic information in order to understand who voted which way. Right now we know which states, counties, and even precincts voted for Trump were not for Trump. But were not exactly sure which voters voted for Trump, much less why they may have done so. In the initial shock of the outcome all sorts of theories were advanced more from gut instinct than from any actual data. Trump voters, we were told, were racist white supremacists who completely condoned all of his personal behaviors. And they were 46% of the country. And if you took that characterization as truth, you might have been shocked at what kind of country the United States “really” was. But such a simplistic interpretation should quickly appear unlikely, especially to anyone with a social science background. For example, within a couple of days the statistic was established that Trump won more total votes from white women then did Hillary Clinton. Can half the white women in the United States really be in favor of sexual assault? Or did they have more complex reasons (or perhaps more simply explained reasons) than the motives many liberals were quick to apply? These are the types of questions that require additional qualitative and quantitative research in order to answer. Both types of research are ongoing, and thus I maintain that even today the meaning of the election cannot be fully understood yet. So while we don’t have all of the data, there is a picture that is beginning to emerge that can tell us in a more nuanced way what happened on November 8th, 2016. And I will start to put this together in the next post.

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