Donald Trump defied the polls and shocked the media and the political establishment when he took several states considered “safe” and blue and turned them light red, managing to defeat Hillary Clinton in an unprecedented upset fueled by millennials and third-party voters.
Exit polls reveal how this race, which seemed all but certain for Clinton, slipped out of her grasp in just a few short hours.
Clinton was unable to wrangle the enthusiasm of millennial voters like President Obama did in 2008 and 2012. Obama won 60 percent of the millennial vote, while Clinton took just over half. Meanwhile, despite dire predictions, Trump was able to perform about as well as Mitt Romney and John McCain did with younger voters.
Clinton also didn’t match the support Obama received from African-Americans in 2012, and was unable to offset the overwhelming support Trump received from white voters. According to the CBS News exit polls, 91 percent of white Republicans voted for Trump, while just 84 percent of white Democrats voted for Clinton. This makes it likely that a portion of the Democratic base she needed either stayed home or cast a “protest vote” against her.
Third-party voters had a significant impact on key battleground races in Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — which have all been called for Trump.
Florida’s 29 electoral votes, which were key to Trump’s victory, could have easily gone to Clinton if third-party voters had been on her side. Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and two other third-party candidates on the ballot collectively drew over 293,000 votes in Florida — more than twice the amount of votes that Trump won by.
Honestly, everyone who voted third party in Florida needs to understand wtf you just did. pic.twitter.com/v66U3Nrn56— the usa is cancelled (@USWNT_18) November 9, 2016
Similarly, Trump took Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, however, if Clinton had been able to convert half of the state’s third-party voters, she could’ve won that race too.
Trump also unexpectedly won Michigan and Wisconsin by razor-thin margins, while third-party candidates made up 4-5% of the vote in these states.
Clinton benefitted from the third-party vote in at least one state — Virginia, where votes cast for Johnson, Stein, and Evan McMullin totaled almost 6 percent.
Gary Johnson did particularly well for a third-party candidate — he received 3.7 million total votes, compared with the 1.2 million he got when he ran in 2012.
Although America is nowhere near abolishing the two-party system, 2016 voters who were dissatisfied with both of their choices sent a clear message — and might have cost Clinton the presidency.