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.