Dalton: The blinders of partisanship and the 2016 US election

From 2000 to 2012, the degree of party loyalty is striking. A full 97% of strong Democrats voted for their party across these elections, and 97% of strong Republicans did the same. It didn’t matter if the Democratic candidate was a white southerner with a long political resume (Gore in 2000), a liberal senator from New England (Kerry in 2004), or an upcoming freshman senator from the Midwest who just happened to be black (Obama in 2008). The same pattern exists among Republicans. Virtually all of the partisan groups voted more than 85% of the time for their own party’s candidate. It should also be noted that the Democratic vote share among independents is shown here. As you can imagine, they are more likely to change their voting preferences across elections.

The 2016 election seemed to challenge this conventional model of partisanship and voting. Hillary Clinton’s campaign targeted women, Hispanics, and gays more explicitly than any Democratic candidate in the past. Donald Trump supposedly appealed to a different type of Republican voter, and swung three major states from the Democrats’ blue Midwestern wall. The rhetoric of the campaign also seemed to test traditional partisan loyalties. In almost every way, this was not a “normal” election. Or was it?

Russell J. Dalton: The blinders of partisanship and the 2016 US election. Pub. by Oxford University Press’ OUPblog.

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35 thoughts on “Dalton: The blinders of partisanship and the 2016 US election

  1. People have already pointed out that talk of a “huge surge in white racists voting for Trump” doesn’t actually match the numbers. The demographics, to the extent they shifted at all, saw whites shift toward Clinton, and the shifts in minority voters were towards Trump.

    So the story of 2016 is going to be pretty much the same as the story of 2000–an election with miserable turnout that got decided on the margins, much like a football game that’s “decided” by a late-game penalty after a just-here-so-I-won’t-get-fined performance by both sides.

    And everyone dances around the question of “why wasn’t Sanders up there”.


    • Because Hillary stole the nomination by being better-known, less extreme, and more popular among normal Democratic constituencies. This despite being obviously less electable than an elderly Jewish socialist from a tiny state who wasn’t even a member of one of the major parties.


        • How? She won more votes. A lot more votes. 2008’s primary was close. 2016’s…wasn’t.

          I’m sure in certain people’s heads she rigged the voting machines with her pet AI’s, but in the end a ton more people voted for her in the primary and she won a fairly clear victory — against an opponent who had the luxury of not splitting the opposition votes.

          So what should we re-examine? Short of changing the primary system to a fiat one, where some learned wise folks chose the nominee (which indeed used to be the case) we’re sort of stuck with the fact that HRC was the clear choice of the Democratic party.


        • I generally avoid woulda coulda hypotheticals because the end result ends up confirming what the asked wanted to happen.

          Bernie was popular with a plurality of the Democratic Party but lefties do not wield huge control in the party for a variety of reasons. The hard-right grip on the GOP is stronger.

          I also wonder if Obama is an exception to a rule where the first of group X loses before winning. Smith was the first Catholic nominee and he lost. HRC was the first woman. Would this apply to Bernie, our first Jewish-Atheist candidate for Pres? Jewish Atheist makes sense in ways that Christian Atheist does not.


          • @morat20 I generally agree that debating whether Sanders would have beaten Trump is pointless and impossible to know anyway. What I don’t like is the outright dismissal HRC supporters seem to have, especially when a lot of Sanders’ criticisms of Clinton proved prescient and he beat her in the Michigan primary. The supposedly safe candidate lost despite big advantages and I don’t think her supporters are in a place to turn their noses up right now.

            Edit to add not assuming you are/were Hilary supporters during the primary.


            • I think emotions are very raw in the Democratic Party right now and this is leading to a lot of infighting and circular firing squad on the left.

              One of my observations as someone who straddles the divide between Gen X and the Millennials is that a lot of people born around 1983 or so and after really hate HRC. I think a lot of people were exposed to the right-wing’s constant drumbeat of Clinton hate during the 1990s and don’t realize it and this partially lead to the more die-hard Bernie supporters being largely annoying and not realizing that they were a plurality and not a majority in the Democratic Party.

              Another issue is that there are a lot of fights going on in the Democratic Party as we discussed before briefly. I do think there is such a thing as structural racism and sexism. I also think that a lot of people do need to get over antiquated ideas on masculinity and machoness and learn that there is no such thing as a “man’s work” or “woman’s work.” FWIW I think that a lot of women also feel strongly attached to these dividing lines and there is probably a dose of hypocrisy in professional women who get angry at men who won’t take “women’s work” because they are almost certainly married to white-collar men with high-powered jobs.

              But people are how they are and we might need to sacrifice some of this ideal or make it a more long term goal. Right now I think there is a lot of ill-will flying around in all directions.


              • The timing is all off in your comment.

                Millennials is that a lot of people born around 1983 or so and after really hate HRC. I think a lot of people were exposed to the right-wing’s constant drumbeat of Clinton hate during the 1990s and don’t realize it..

                So, millennials are wary of HRC because of rightwing points absorbed in their teenage years? That does not make a lot of sense, especially when you consider that the right’s attacks on Clinton have always centered on purported scandals and conspiracies like Whitewater and Vincent Foster.

                Millennial wariness of Clinton revolves around things like welfare reform, NAFTA, and talk of superpredators; in other words, it comes from the left. That is why Bernie was such a big hit with younger voters. The left has always had their circular firing squads. You’re welcome to blame that on the vast rightwing conspiracy, but I’m not sure why you’d want to be wrong.


        • Loudness of your supporters is not the same thing as popularity. Having supporters come out and vote for you is a much closer approximation. At twelve percentage point gap in a primary may be closer than average, but it’s not in “Who’s to know who is more popular?” territory.


            • So there should be a noticeable difference between paper ballot systems and electronic voting machines, right? That would be an interesting explanatory variable.

              Too bad that when they gave her her super powers to manipulate voting results, she swore only to use them in primary elections.


              • tf,
                There was some rigging of the general election, but not nearly as much as there could have been (and pushing towards Clinton, because the Powers that Be wanted her for The War). The Powers that Be decided that if Trump lost, there might be riots. And that’s bad for their investments, doncha know?

                I haven’t run the analysis myself, mind, I talk with my friend who’s worked for Hillary and Bernie and a bunch of other people you’ve heard of before. When he says something smells like a rat, I believe him.


                • My issue with believing your Rolodex of nameless experts is that every time one of them talks about something that is actually within my sphere of expertise, it’s complete nonsense. This doesn’t make me inclined to take a leap of faith on issues where I have less visibility.


                  • tf,
                    First, what is your realm of expertise?
                    Second, what is the nonsense?
                    Thirdly, are you so certain you have the most expertise? I will note that I often cite sources that only belatedly write the research papers. First you do the science, then you pass the IRB.

                    (I am willing to cite stuff about the climatology research I’ve been posting about. And I could post some stuff straight from NOAA for Florida…)


                    • We’ve crossed over a few topics where I have formal eduction or significant practical experience. Economics jumps out in my mind. In those cases, your experts have consistently said things that are just freshman-level wrong. Not “way out there cutting edge research” strange, but rather just silly and nonsensical. Like, they fundamentally don’t understand inflation, exchange rates, bond yields, etc.

                      I certainly am not the world’s leading expert on economics. There are real economists here on this very site who know the field a lot better. But you don’t need to be the #1 expert to recognize fake experts most of the time, and when I’ve had the tools to evaluate, your secret experts are almost invariably fake.

                      Giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming these people exist, I’ll flip the question around on you: Are you sure you know enough about those topics to know when somebody is yanking your chain about being in the know (or that the person simply isn’t a crank with delusions of grandeur)? On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.


                      • … I’m actually wondering what the hell I was quoting in Economics. That’s not often a field that I quote stuff about (I do know someone who worked with Krugman at some point) — and I’m rather worried I might have misquoted something.

                        Hm. Recent comments I’ve heard have been about the state of American Pocketbooks and How Many Kids live in their Parents Basements. Interesting, but not terribly quotable

                        Unless you want to get into why Global Free Trade is due for a major collapse, but I can pull you dollars and cents on that one.

                        When I quote friends of mine, as often as not I’ve seen them working on the projects in question. I know the person who got the award for Best Political Ad for 2008 (Yes, you know the ad. Mike Gravel. This Moment of Zen). I’ve heard that guy talking with his mother to plan campaign ads (that subsequently were posted on dailykos). I’ve seen the troll-posting done after Mitt Romney lost. He’s stated “this is the only thing Joe Biden needs to do in the debate” (and I’ve seen it be used to good effect).


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