I AM MAKING A MEA CULPA FOR MY OFT REPEATED PREDICTION OF REPUBLICAN FAILURE IN THE 2016 ELECTION.
When seeking forgiveness, one should seek to understand where things went wrong so the error is not repeated. My prediction error was created by a misunderstanding of the significance of the number of Republican voters whose vote is predicated on the varying policy stances that exist within the Republican Party.
President-elect Trump’s stances on the issues resonated with a majority of Republican voters as he exceeded all reasonable expectations in not only winning his own election, but in his ability to drag otherwise doomed Republicans into the winner’s circle.
To recap, my 2016 election prognostication was based on extrapolating 2012 election results out to 2016 using trends established by the 1988 and 2012 elections. President–elect Trump exceeded these projections in 41 states, while underperforming in only California, Massachusetts, Kansas, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Utah and Idaho. In the last two, and perhaps in the last three states listed, this underperformance was related to the religious makeup of the states, and this peculiarity will not be explored.
President-elect Trump exceeded vote projections by margins of ten percent or more in North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Indiana, Hawaii, Vermont, his home state of New York, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Iowa. His ability to flip Wisconsin, Florida and Pennsylvania, and to hold onto North Carolina, is also noteworthy.
The analysis of the vote in Florida, and in particular my own home county of Indian River, will help explain how Mr. Trump was able to capture the presidency where traditional Republican candidates would have likely failed.
Indian River County has some of the greatest discrepancies in wealth of any county in the nation. The discrepancies have a noted geographical difference with the wealthy mostly inhabiting a barrier island.
The vote of the wealthy is easily discernable owing to the barrier island encompassing Indian River County precincts 14 through 18. For this analysis, the vote of the non-barrier island precincts of 7 through 10, which make up the City of Sebastian, will also be noted. This will be followed by a general analysis of Florida counties to add support for those findings derived from Indian River County.
The barrier island voters of Indian River County are historically very Republican voters.
The voters of the barrier island collectively gave former Governor Romney a 48.92% margin of victory in the 2012 presidential election. President-elect Trump’s 2016 margin of victory on the barrier island was only 30.29%, a Republican margin decrease of 18.62% when compared to the Republican margin in 2012.
Obviously whatever President-elect Trump was selling, barrier island voters were not as readily willing to buy. And not only were the barrier island people less likely to vote for the President-elect, but they didn’t just fail to vote, many voted for his Democrat opponent!
The number of barrier island voters increased by 347 voters in 2016 compared to 2012, while the number of votes for the Republican candidate dropped by 1,064 and the votes for the Democrat candidate increased by 974! Further highlighting President-elect Trump proportional disconnect from the barrier island Republican voters was found in the senate vote as Republican Senate candidate Rubio’s margin of victory on the island was 42.63%, 12.34% greater than that of the President-elect’s vote margin.
The vote of the residents of the barrier island stands in great contrast to the voters of the City of Sebastian, a city inhabited by generally monetarily poorer people. The voters of Sebastian gave former governor Romney a 15.36% margin of victory in 2012. In 2016, President-elect Trump carried Sebastian by a 26.77% margin, an increase in margin of 11.41%.
Also in contrast was President-elect Trump besting Senator Rubio’s margin in Sebastian by 4.24%. The number of 2016 Sebastian voters compared to the number of voters in 2012 increased by 2,010 with the President-elect’s vote increasing by 1732 votes while the 2016 Democrat nominee received 166 fewer votes than President Obama received in 2012. Those Sebastian Republican voters, who found themselves unable to vote for President-elect Trump, generally did not vote for the 2016 Democrat nominee, but chose not to vote in the presidential election or to vote for the candidate of a minor party!
A comparison of these two distinct groups of Republican voters explains how President-elect Trump was able to win nationally. On the issues, President-elect Trump was more politically aligned with the average American, a numerically more significant pool of voters than the pool of wealthy voters. Republican presidential nominees since Reagan have all been more politically aligned with the pool of wealthy voters. In hindsight this alignment does not appear to have been very politically astute.
This phenomenon of President-elect Trump capturing a different pool of voters than the Republican norm is readily discernable in the comparisons of the 2012 and 2016 vote in the counties of Florida.
The counties where President-elect Trump did comparably better in 2016 than former Governor Romney did in 2012 were the fairly large population counties with more moderately priced homes such as Pasco, Charlotte, Pinellas, Volusia, Lake, Polk, Marion, St. Lucie, Citrus, Lee, Brevard, and Hernando counties. He also did comparably well in the 29 lower-income, low-population, rural counties of Florida, where his percentage of the vote exceeded that of former Governor Romney in every instance.
Counties where President-elect Trump generally under-performed in 2016 compared to 2012 were the generally large population counties with fairly expensive housing such as Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, Alachua, Seminole, Collier, and St. Johns.
My failure to correctly forecast the 2016 election outcome makes me hesitant to predict how well the President-elect will govern, but if the President-elect governs as well as he performed in the presidential election, our country will be well served.
[Stephen Meyer is an author and political radio show host, who’s innovative methodology correctly predicted the winning candidate in 47 states and Washington D.C., along with President Obama’s overall victory in 2012. He resides in Vero Beach, Florida.]