As the election counting, and soon to be recounting, rages on, there are plenty of people that tell me they just “couldn’t vote for Trump,” even though in theory they are conservatives. Personally, I vote based on what a candidate says they support, or has demonstrated they support, for policies that I care about, ranging from foreign policy and gun control to right to life and taxes, and then on a scale of how much I care about each. For example, I care more about foreign policy and abortion than taxes because I’m directly affected by foreign policy and I’ve seen first hand how pervasive abortion theory is in hospitals, but I’m not making enough money to care if the tax rate jumps significantly.
I also know that while I’m a policy voter, many people have an emotional connection to voting, and they have to “like” the candidate they are voting for. We can discuss whether that makes sense in another article, but we should recognize that candidate likeability does matter to many people. It’s likely what got Bill Clinton elected. But is likeability enough that it mattered to Trump’s election?
Although the data isn’t complete yet, I pulled Reuters election data and used Wikipedia for 2016 election data to try and answer the question: Did people not vote for Trump that would have voted for another Republican Presidential candidate that was more likeable? I sampled data by looking at states that had Senate races. My theory was that if someone was a “Never Trumper,” they would likely still vote for the Senate Republican in their state. I also looked at Libertarian votes to see if they made a difference. The states I ended up picking were Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, New Mexico, Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota and Colorado, in what I think is a pretty decent spread.
First, was their a surge in Libertarian votes? Not at all.
Just looking at raw numbers, Libertarian votes went down, in many cases drastically. 2016 was a banner year for Libertarian and Green Party vote, but this year they just did not have the turnout, despite running Jo Jorgenson, a very likeable candidate.
Second, was there a noticeable Never Trump vote? I calculated the difference between Presidential votes and Senate votes between parties and then compared them. The numbers aren’t 100% aligned. I calculated a scaling factor to multiply the Senate votes by to balance numbers. Then I took the difference from Senate Republicans vs Trump votes to see if there were “Never Trumper” votes. If there were, I then calculated if the difference mattered.
The results are interesting. In Arizona and Alabama, the number was negative, meaning Trump had more votes than the Senate Republican. In the 6 states where there was Never Trump votes, only one, Georgia, would have mattered.
While not 100% scientific, we can reach a few conclusions:
- The Never Trump vote is real, but not everywhere.
- Where there is a Never Trump vote, it mostly doesn’t always matter, even in swing states.
- Libertarian vote didn’t appreciably go up this year.
For Republicans, this is good and bad news. It means that the Never Trump faction isn’t nearly as big as the media might make it out to be. Better still, when people had a choice between a more likeable candidate (Jo Jorgensen), they actively chose not to vote for her, far more than the 2016 election would have indicated.
The bad news is that Biden wins in key states can’t be attributed to candidate hatred. Democrats ran a relatively weak, bland candidate, and he is either coming out on top or close to it. That means that overall people are looking favorably on Democrat candidates. Whether its the biased news media, demographics, vote rigging or policies, Republicans are not in a good spot, because short of major changes, they don’t have a chance at capturing the Presidency in the future.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.