No, Voter Turnout Did Not Change the Election

I’ve seen several media outlets claiming that Trump only won because of reduced voter turnout — even though voter turnout was up 0.4% from 2012. The argument goes that turnout was down in some key areas and among some key demographics. In addition, this idea that there was a “white surge” while minority races stayed home also seems to be rubbish. I mean, states like Florida and Texas saw a YUGE increase in turnout where there are large Hispanic populations while whiter states like Wisconsin saw reduced turnout. This also simultaneously debunks the intellectually bankrupt theory that Trump won because of racism — he won in spite of racist overtures. In fact, demographically white Wisconsin was one of only five states were fewer voters turned out in 2016 than 2012.

In Florida, Trump captured 454,000 more votes than Romney while Clinton gained 267,000 votes over Obama.

By contrast, Wisconsin saw an overall drop in voter participation, and was one of only two states in which Trump won despite receiving fewer votes than Romney did in 2012 (the other was Mississippi, which Trump took in a landslide).

I thought that it would be interesting take an extreme case just to see if voter turnout changed the election (just to satisfy the critics). Let’s look at the 10 states where the difference between the two candidates was under 5% points. Any margin of victory beyond that could not be overcome with turnout alone.

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As the above graph demonstrates, only little Wisconsin saw a drop in voter turnout. We don’t know the political views of those who stayed home. It could be that they had no preference, and thus didn’t vote, meaning that their votes would cancel each other out, giving Trump the states anyway. But let’s assume that every single voter that never showed up to vote would have cast a ballot for Clinton.

This is a completely insane proposition because it means that Alaska would have gone Democrat in 2016. Yes, that’s right, a state that repudiates Hillary Clinton more often than the Democrats would go for Clinton in 2016. The only time Alaska ever voted for the Democratic presidential candidate was 1964 when they voted against the wishes of Hillary Clinton and the Republican candidate she was campaigning for, Goldwater, and instead went with Johnson. That’s how much Alaskans don’t like Clinton. Or maybe they weren’t thinking straight after dealing with the massive 9.2 earthquake. Or maybe that just like Johnsons. I know a few of them in Alaska, and they seem like nice people. After all, they voted in high numbers for Gary “where’s Aleppo” Johnson who managed to capture 5.9% of the Alaskan vote. Only New Mexico and North Dakota beat that.

Making the crazy assumption with the 10 closest states gives Wisconsin to Clinton, but that still means Trump ends up with 296 electoral votes, 26 more than he needed.

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that poor voter turnout did not give Trump the victory.

Another one making the rounds is this idea of a whitelash: “Trump enjoyed a huge increase of white supporters.”

Again, the data does not show this. Trump did see a huge increase in supporters from poor whites, but this was more than offset by middle and upper-class whites. Overall, Republican support among whites was down while Republican support among blacks, Hispanics, and Asians was up.

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One more note: Trump lost ground in Arizona and Texas, while gaining huge in Florida at the same time. I wonder if it’s the case that Mexican Latinos preferred Clinton while Cuban Latinos preferred Tump. Trump never made insulting comments about Cubans (Mark Cuban aside), and Cuban Americans are more apt to want the US to be tough with the types of oppressive foreign governments like the one of which they’re most familiar.

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The Trump Landslide Myth

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A number of my Trump-loving friends have told me that the polls are wrong. When I inquire further, I hear that the polls are rigged or that Trump is so hated that voters tell pollsters they’re voting for Clinton while actually intending on choosing Trump.

This concept that a certain segment of the population will lie to pollsters is an old theory, but it’s still a myth. There will not be a landslide by Trump. In fact, Trump will be extremely lucky to fall one or two states short, let alone win.

The Trump landslide myth starts in Germany where the  spiral of silence theory was first proposed in 1974. The premise states that people fear isolation, and thus those who are ostracized by society will not express their opinions in public (or to pollsters apparently).

Other nations have subsequently developed similar theories to try and explain instances where the polls turned out to wrong. In the U.S.A., the Bradley effect stems from the 1982 California governor’s race where the African American candidate, Tom Bradley, was leading in the polls, but lost the election. Pundits explained away his loss as a function of social desirability bias — voters will virtue signal to pollsters that they love racial minorities, but at the poll booth pick the candidate they actually like (because they’re actually racist). This theory tends to fall apart when we consider the fact that Obama did better than the polls predicted.

In the U.K. and Canada pundits have tried to peg discrepancies in the polls on the shy Tory factor. Tories is another name for Conservatives. The theory goes that conservative voters are — for some reason — shy with pollsters.

There are no shy voters. It’s a myth invented by wishful thinking (or sometimes fear-mongering if trumpeted by opposing candidates).  There are especially no shy Trump supporters. Have you seen how many people show up at his rallies? Clinton might have 50 people at her rally, but Trump will have 100 times that amount. These are not shy voters!

The polls are incredibly accurate and scientific, and not subject to rigging. When they do miss the mark, it’s largely because voters changed their minds during the last few days of the campaign. Polls only reflect the viewpoints of voters on the day they were surveyed, and since polls are conducted over several days, they’re already behind current public open as soon as they’re released.

Trump supporters point to Brexit as an example of polls getting the results wrong. Not all pollsters got it wrong (the Telegraph nailed it). In fact, the polls were quite close to the actual result. There was some surge at the end, which most polls did pick up on. It was the pro-EU voters who suffered from a Trumpian sort of willful ignorance by denying the reality of the polls, and instead going with the betting markets.

Here in Canada we have had similar problems with the polls appearing to be wrong. During the 2013 provincial election in British Columbia, the Liberals saw a huge surge in the final week of the campaign. Because of the lag factor, it only looked like the pollsters missed the mark. Further investigation revealed that following the polling trends through to election day called the election result correctly. A similar scenario played out during the 2015 federal election. The pollsters called the correct result, but they underestimated the margin because of the rapid change in public opinion in final few days.

There is no Trump surge over the final few days of this election.

Sometimes it’s not the pollsters who get it wrong, but the political spinsters. On one side are the wishful thinking voters who insist that they are not behind in the polls, and on the other you have fear-mongers, who say “vote for me, or the bad guy will win.” In Canada, for example, you will have a politician knowing his New Democratic Party (NDP) was well back in third place telling the Green candidate who is in first place to vote NDP to stop the Conservative candidate who is in second place.

Trump supporters might be right in a certain sense in that this election is not like a typical one, and thus the pollsters might not be able to accurately gauge who will vote. I would agree that uncertainty is up this time around, and the result could fall outside of the margin of error, but the polls are more likely over-estimating Trump’s support. It could also be that the undecided voters who are largely Republican leaning come home to roost at the last minute. In the important states like Florida, one third of voters have already cast their ballots in advanced voting, so it’s more likely that a large percentage of these voters have already cast their ballots.

Republicans normally attract richer and more educated folks, but not this election. Unlike previous Republican candidates, Trump’s supporters have less education than his rival’s supporters. This is an important factor because better educated and wealthier voters are more likely to vote. Another factor determining propensity to vote is religiosity, and on that Trump’s moral failings have turned many on the religious right toward Clinton.

Polling firms try to take age and other factors into account when estimating support, but they can’t account for everything. Trump’s ground game of getting voters out the polls by all accounts is lacking. Meanwhile, Clinton has been offering free bus rides from Universities to polling stations among other measures to ensure she gets her supports out to vote. Obama’s support was underestimated because African-Americans showed up at the polls in much higher numbers than they expected. It could be that some Trump supporters will show up in higher numbers than expected, but by all accounts Hispanic voters who overwhelming support Clinton are going to vote in higher numbers than forecast on November 8th.

As of the latest polling data, Clinton has a 2/3 chance of winning against Trump’s 1/3 chance. Trump probably needs to win New Hampshire, which is a tall order. The polls have to be 2 points wrong in his favor there. He also needs to win Nevada, North Carolina, and Florida, where the polls show a dead heat. If Clinton is underestimated by the polls as I suspect, then she will win all three of those states. If I’m wrong (which I doubt since I’ve never been wrong in my entire life), Trump will win all three. If I’m really wrong, he’ll win New Hampshire too, and the presidency to boot.

I’m putting my money on Clinton.

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Update: The polls missed Trump’s support in the Mid-West, but still, the shy voter theory is still not the reason.

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That Time When the Okanagan Remained Frozen for an Entire Month

It takes an incredible stretch of cold weather to keep the temperature below freezing for longer than a week or two in most of Canada’s populated areas. A month is almost unheard of — even in Alberta. Calgary has weather records stretching back to 1881, and yet, managed such a feat only once (January, 1950). Farther south near the Montana border, they’ve never suffered through a month without a thaw. Even Canada’s oldest weather station in Toronto with 177 years worth of data has never encountered a month that remained below freezing in its entirety.

And yet, a large swath of folks from Alberta and Ontario come out to the Okanagan to escape the cold. Don’t tell them this, but even the Okanagan Valley is not immune to extreme cold like you’ll never find in Toronto — largely unknown in part because anyone under the age of 80 has never experienced what the Okanagan had to offer in 1937. I confess to being a bit disappointed about that — for extreme cold means skating on lakes that haven’t frozen over in half a century. Who wouldn’t want that opportunity?

1937 was an interesting year all across the continent. Raleigh, North Carolina started the year without freezing until February, marking the first and last time it has made it through an entire winter month without a frost. Out west, 1937 was at the tail end of the dust bowl drought. Year after year the Prairies experienced extreme heat in Summer, extreme cold in Winter, and drought year round. Previous weather records thought unbeatable were broken – and then were surpassed a year later.

Between 1933 and 1937, the Prairies experienced only 60% of its normal rainfall. Thousands of livestock were lost to starvation and suffocation, crops withered and 250,000 people across the region abandoned their land to seek better lives elsewhere.

On top of moisture that never materialized, summer temperatures sucked up what little moisture did fall. The temperatures that had been progressively rising over the decades, peaking in the mid-1930s.

30 years earlier in July of 1906, Spences Bridge, BC set the Canadian record for hottest month ever recorded. The average daily average maximum temperature was 35.5°C (95.9°F) and the daily mean was 26.6°C (79.9°F). Ten years later in 1916, Pelee Island, Ontario — thanks to those warm Ontario nights, beat Spences Bridge’s mean by averaging 26.9°C (80.4°F). Right on cue, exactly a decade later in 1926, Wallaceburg, Ontario came close to beating that by averaging 26.8°C (80.2°F).

Anyone looking for the decadal pattern to continue was not disappointed for exactly 10 years later in July of 1936 Morris, Manitoba tied the all-time Canadian record with an average mean temperature of 26.9°C (80.4°F).

None of the above four records have been matched since.

As outlined previously, temperature extremes and extremely high averages don’t always coincide. In fact, the reason average temperatures are going up over time is that extreme temperature events are becoming less common, and extremes as a whole tend to pull down average temperatures.

1936 was one of those rare years where extreme temperatures and extremely high averages did coexist. All across the Canadian Prairies the mercury climbed above 105°F/40.6°C Day after day the heat persisted. New records were formed only to be beaten the following week. Emerson, Manitoba hit 40 degrees Celsius during three successive July heat waves — seven days in total for a Canadian record that still stands today. Emerson along with St Albans, Manitoba peaked at 112°F/44.4°C, also a new Canadian record. This record would only stand for one year because Sweet Grass and Midale over in Saskatchwan, would set the Canadian record that still stands today: 113°F/45°C.

The 1937 heatwave was extreme, but short-lived. By contrast, the 1936 heat wave broke every temperature record imaginable. Spences Bridge’s 1906 record of 35.5°C (95.9°F) was topped by Nashlyn and Willow Creek of Saskatchwan in July, 1936 as they averaged 35.8°C (96.4°F) and 35.6°(96.1°F) for the month. Another record that still stands 80 years later.

And then there’s the cold. Mindblowingly cold temperatures. A little known fact is that snow typically evaporates (technically, sublimates) quicker in extreme cold than moderate cold. This certainly didn’t help the prairie drought situation. February of 1936 was the coldest month ever recorded in most of western Canada. Even on the coast of British Columbia where flowers are normally in full bloom in February, the temperature stayed below freezing most of the month.

For those of you from the Okanagan, you’ll be happy to know that you were not spared the pain and suffering. 1936 was brutal – both in winter and summer, but the most brutal of all was January, 1937. None of the dozen or so weather stations in the Okanagan valley managed to rise above freezing, even for a single day for the entire month. Not Vernon. Not Kelowna. Not Oliver. Not even Penticton where the temperature is moderated by the two large lakes sandwiching the city.

Since Okanagan weather records began in the late 1800s through 2016, this has never occurred before or since. A truly amazing anomaly we’ll probably never see again. Well, you can never say never with the weather, but it sure looks and feels like it’s outside the realm of possibilities.

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January 1937 is the only month that remained below freezing from start to finish.

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What The 2016 Election is Really About

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The 2016 U.S. Presidential election is like none other before it. Donald Trump –the most politically inexperienced candidate to run for president in my lifetime — somehow manages to win the Republican nomination despite the fact that the party establishment and  most party activists were dead set against him.

On the other side, the heir apparent, Hillary Clinton, only managed to win the nomination by rigging the rules in her favor while stabbing her Socialist rival in the back (figuratively speaking). It should have been a cakewalk, but it wasn’t.

So here we are at the Trump versus Clinton stage with Trump doing surprisingly well in the polls.

That begs the question: Who are his supporters, and how do we differentiate them from Clinton’s supporters?

Many would say the election is about right versus left, but that’s not exactly accurate since both candidates are fairly centrist while the traditional political wings are left unhappy with their preferred party’s choice. Trump is especially unpopular among traditional right leaning academics. For instance, one of the most high profile conservative magazines, The National Review, dedicating an entire issue to disavowing Trump for President. Unlike previous elections, this one is not as much about right versus left for Trump still holds in the polls even without the support of the conservative base.

Others have said the election is between the racists and non-racists. This theory falls apart when we consider the empirical data showing a massive decline in racism over the past 50 years — to the point that a candidate wouldn’t get more than 5% today if racists make up their core support. Plus, Trump needs millions of votes from people who voted for a black president.

Others have argued that the election is between white males and everyone else. Again, if this were true Trump wouldn’t be getting more than 35% since women outnumber men, especially at the ballot box, and minorities are closing in on white men quantitatively speaking.

Trump supporter, Gavin McInnes, says this election is about Mommy versus Daddy. While this might make some sense on the surface, I think the division runs deeper than that. The roles of Mommy and Daddy in today’s society are not what they were a generation ago, which renders such a comparison confusing to say the least.

What this election breaks down to is a war between white collar America and blue collar America. Most of Trump’s supporters are blue collar, whether they are Republicans, Democrats, or totally apolitical — and many of them are not the traditional Republican voter. By blue collar I mean a little more rough around the edges, a little more no nonsense with crime, beer drinkers, smokers, and hillbillies. What they see in Donald Trump is someone who speaks to the miner and factory worker. They are worried about environmentalists, bureaucratic regulators, and white collar workers shutting down their jobs and moving them overseas.

Most of those who prefer Hillary Clinton are white collar in comparison. Whether they work white collar jobs or not, Clinton supporters hold a white collar mindset that looks for someone who will work with the system to improve what already exists.  No one is enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton, but she’s not Trump of whom they view with disdain and fear. Donald Trump’s crude, rude, and unpredictable antics turn white collar America off. Blue collar America loves this about him. Most members of the media are white collar — including conservative members, so they all share this disdain for Trump. White collar people want someone more refined who will just keep things going forward without creating chaos and controversy, and for them Clinton is the best choice.

At the end of the day, Trump will always be in the running no matter what he says or does and no matter how many #NeverTrump Republicans there are because a large swath of America is blue collar to the core.

Michael Moore identifies the demographic as well as anyone.

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Jason Kenney

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For those of you who don’t know, the province of Alberta was ruled by conservative governments for 80 consecutive years. There was a switch in the middle where one conservative party (the Progressive Conservatives) took over from the other (Social Credit) as the go-to conservative party, and govern they did for the next 44 years.

Then the shocker of all shockers in 2015 when the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) formed government. This was precipitated by the ruling Progressive Conservatives who became arrogant and entitled with their power. Voters were so upset that they were willing to experiment with the never-tried-in-Alberta NDP over the government they have always known. Wildrose, an upstart right-wing party, also took a sizable number of the ship jumpers. When the dust settled, the 44 year old government was reduced to third place. 

Much of the blame, especially from the outgoing government, was pointed at Wildrose for “splitting the right.” In reality, the arrogance of the Progressive Conservatives lead to the NDP win, for had a significant number of their historic voters not cast an NDP ballot, the NDP would not have won. But fear is a great motivator among politicians tossed from power, so they fear a divided right will lead do another NDP win. Conservatives in Alberta do not want the NDP to gain a foothold in the province so they strive hard to program in the minds of voters that this was a one-off fluke win by the NDP. Alberta is conservative country, and always will be.

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This is why I think there’s such a strong push to unite the right. Rationally, there should be no push to unite the parties since the polls have the NDP well back in 2nd place behind Wildrose. But still, a divided right does leave the door open to another “fluke” by the NDP, and that must be avoided at all costs.

Enter Jason Kenney.

Jason Kenney is one of the most well known and experienced federal conservative politicians in Canada, and he has surprisingly decided to seek the Progressive Conservative nomination in Alberta with the expressed purpose of uniting the right. Kenney is a smart guy and seems to act with integrity, but I think he’s doing the wrong thing here.

Over the past 44 years the Conservative dynasty in Alberta would crush their nearest rivals so thoroughly that it took a tremendous level of disgust with the government before they were removed from office. This does not serve democracy well. A united conservative government that crushes the opposition will be allowed to grow entitled and corrupt (as all governments eventually do). Voters are better served when there are two conservative parties sweating it out tooth and nail, even if it means the odd NDP government gets thrown into the mix.  This gives the voters real choice over when they decide to toss the government to the curb.

Many conservatives fear that the NDP will cause irreversible damage, but there’s really no policy that can’t be undone. Besides, a tired old corrupt conservative government can do a lot of damage too, especially if it can keep winning without listening to the people.

“If we take the widest and wisest view of a Cause, there is no such thing as a Lost Cause, because there is no such thing as a Gained Cause.”

~ T.S. Elliot

 

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The Number One Trump Quality

Pizzed

Numerous theories have been bantered about in the media and online over Donald Trump’s inexplicable success. Unfortunately, they end up missing the mark because the authors are all too often preoccupied with discovering that one negative trait they can peg on all Trump supporters. The game is rigged from the beginning and objective inquiry is the first victim.

If I want to know what motivates you, I have two methods of inquiry available to me. Either I can do what the pundits do, and observe what you’re doing from afar (which is to say, I’m going to have to make some assumptions that probably fit my own biases), or I can simply ask you directly. Of course, asking runs the risk that you’re lying or confused, but if I ask a group of people and they all give the same answer, you’re probably telling me the truth.

After inquiring among my Trump supporting friends and family, and I can tell you that the unifying theme is not racism, authoritarianism, or lack of education. Some might fit one or more of those categories, but that’s not much more than a coincidence. Rather, that one quality that every Trump supporter cites is: Trump doesn’t apologize. Ever.

Apologizing comes in many forms, some subtle and some not so subtle. While every other aspiring presidential hopeful was busy claiming that things can’t or shouldn’t be done, Trump was standing firm with his bold vision for America.

His supporters are tired of Obama bowing to the Saudis. They are tired of the left apologizing at the UN. They are really tired of Hilliary Clinton above all else, but they are additionally fed up with the “establishment” conservatives apologizing to the left. This has given rise to a new word: cuckservative.

I’m no connoisseur of pornography, but I understand that a cuck (or cuckold) is an adjective in the porn world that describes a man who enjoys watching someone else have sex with his wife. By extension, a cuckservative is a conservative who glad-hands to the left while the country gets screwed.

The Trump-cons are tired of that. They view conservatives as weak and pathetic apologists who let the left be the political aggressors, and they view liberals as weak and pathetic apologists who let the Muslim Brotherhood front groups and illegal immigrants walk all over Americans.

Trump supporters want a president that will put American interests first, and they view Donald as that man. They don’t care that Trump is a troll or that he’s less than honest, or that he is to the political left of the other Republican candidates. In fact, they don’t really care about left-right politics or the Republican Party in general. They care about American interests first and foremost, whether it’s physical walls to keep out illegal migrants as championed by the Alt-Right or economic walls to keep jobs at home as championed by the Union Left, it’s all good so long as it puts America first.

Certainly, both of these policies are not beyond critique, but for now, I’m highlighting why many Americans like Trump, and why name-calling the man or his supporters has unintended consequences. Humans are emotional beings, and Trump either turns people off emotionally or inspires them emotionally. Responding in kind by calling voters racist (one of the worst things you can call someone) tends to harden resolve for this very reason. If your goal is to convince a Trump supporter to look elsewhere, you’re probably not going to have much success from your high horse. After all, pretending that you’re the rational one beyond cognitive bias while Trump and his supporters are the emotionally driven Nethanderals has a bit of a Marxist twang to it.

The only way to stop the Trump wave is to connect at the same level emotionally, and genuinely listen to what his supporters have to say. Then offer better solutions. That’s the hard part. Trump raises serious and real concerns, and even though his solutions are often weak and simplistic, he’s one step ahead the Democrats who won’t even acknowledge the problems that these voters care about exist.  Trump is not like normal Republicans that get smoked at the emotional game. Name calling does not work on Trump because he’s so good at coming back with the devastating kill-shot. Mark my words, if the Democrats don’t change their game plan, Trump will defy the polls, and win easily in the Fall.

The ball is in their court.

If the Democrats want to keep the White House, they will have to do a lot better than this:

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Aslan

Reza Aslan is one of the most trustworthy and knowledgeable scholars on the planet today. Or so I’ve been told by the fawning mainstream media.

Sensationalism and gotcha moments trump the truth in the media because that’s their bread and butter. It’s more important that Aslan burned Fox News than it is that he was less than honest while doing so. It is more important that he wrote a book that sensationally overturned the traditional understand of Jesus than it is that he could only do so by twisting clearly understood texts to mean the complete opposite of what they mean.

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Outside of the media circles it seems that you find less adoring fans. Here are three examples.

  1. If you are into gaming, this is the video for you:

 

2. If you are into lefty Internet talk shows, this one is for you:

 

3. And finally, if you’re into Christian apologetics, this video is for you:

 

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