The Numbers: How Hillary Clinton Lost


Once all the votes are counted, it looks like Hillary Clinton will underperform Barack Obama by about 4 percentage points in the national vote. Was this an across-the-board loss, or was it concentrated among certain groups?

The quickest way to get a sense of what happened is to compare the exit polls from 2012 and 2016. What we’re looking for is demographic groups that differ from -4% by a significant margin. As it turns out, there aren’t very many. Clinton underperformed Obama across the board. She did somewhat better than -4% with seniors, college grads, married voters, and high-income voters. She did worse with low-income voters, union households, and unmarried voters.

This was not a “white revolt.” White men followed the national trend (-4% compared to 2012) and white women did better for Clinton (+1%). Black men and Latino women underperformed for Clinton by significant margins.

The big surprise here is that Clinton did so much worse with unmarried voters. She underperformed Obama among unmarried men by a whopping 10 points, and among unmarried women by 5 points. What’s up with that? I would sure like to see a crosstab of unmarried men by age, race, income, etc. Latino voters are also a surprise. Clinton only did slightly worse than Obama, but surely she should have done much better. What happened?

Here’s the full set of comparisons to Obama in 2012. For reference, 2012 exit polls are here. 2016 exit polls are here.

Category

Men
Women

18-29
30-44
45-64
65+

White
Black
Latino

White men
White women
Black men
Black women
Latino men
Latino women

High School
Some college
College
Postgrad

<$50K
$50-100K
$100+

Democrat
Republican
Independent

Protestant
Catholic

Married men
Married women
Unmarried men
Unmarried women

Liberal
Mod
Conservative

White born again
Other

Union household
Not union

Comparison to
Obama 2012

-4
-1

-5
-3
-2
+1

-2
-5
-6

-4
+1
-7
-2
-3
-8

-6
-6
+2
+3

-8
0
+3

-3
0
-3

-3
-5

-1
+3
-10
-5

-2
-4
-2

-5
-1

-7
-3