The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The 7 charts that explain the 2016 presidential election

We've written a bajillion words — that's not an estimate, that's an exact figure — in this space about the 2016 election. So, rather than write even more words on this Election Day, I asked each member of The Fix (Aaron Blake, Philip Bump, Amber Phillips, Callum Borchers and Peter Stevenson) to give me the one (or two or three) charts that they thought said something important about this election and/or the state of the country. They're below — with a short explainer for why each matters.

1. The disappearing swing voter

Wrote Aaron: “There are simply fewer and fewer swing voters. The Monkey Cage’s John Sides in November pointed to a study by Michigan State University’s Corwin Smidt showing the number of swing voters — labeled here as “floating voters” — has declined from as much as 15 percent of the population in the late 1960s to about 5 percent of voters today.

2. Republicans demographic problem

Wrote Philip: “Even without creating a path to citizenship for people who immigrated illegally, Republican candidates need to do a better job of appealing to a Hispanic citizen population which is projected to be among the fastest growing in the country. The Census Bureau estimates how the population will grow over the next few decades. The number of Americans overall will increase, and the percentage of the population that is Hispanic will grow more rapidly than the population as a whole. At the same time, the number of people age 65 and over will also grow — including whites in that age group, a population that currently makes up a lot of the Republican base.”

3. The downballot Trump effect

Wrote Amber: “Senate Republicans don't necessarily need Donald Trump to win for them to hold onto their majority. (In fact, some of them are campaigning on a Trump loss.) They just need him to avoid a blowout loss. And as the presidential race tightens, there’s evidence that if Trump loses to Hillary Clinton by roughly 3 to 5 points, Senate Republicans could hang on. According to the latest polling averages from RealClearPolitics of the 13 most competitive Senate races this cycle, Republicans are outperforming Trump in nine states. Sometimes by as much as 8, 9, even 13 points. It’s a trend we’ve been noticing since September, when Senate Republicans polled ahead of Trump by an average of four points.”

4. The racial divide

Bump: “During the Clinton administration, white Americans were about four points more likely to say they were Republican than Democrat. In 2013, according to Gallup, the margin was nine points. While the Democratic Party is more racially diverse, black Americans are not very politically diverse. Pew Research regularly surveys to figure out the partisan blend in the country, and in 2014 it determined that whites were more likely to identify as Republican than Democrat, 49 percent to 40 percent — a margin that mirrors Gallup. Blacks, on the other hand, were over seven times as likely to say that they're Democrats.”

5. Everyone hates the media. In their own way.

Wrote Cal: “Attacking the media is a universal strategy in politics — there's no better way to reduce the impact of an unwelcome message or stories than by attacking the messenger — but as the Pew data shows, the way to do it right depends on whether you are appealing to Democrats or Republicans.”

6. Millennials are “meh” about Trump and Clinton

Fix token millennial Peter: “As someone who witnessed the Obama craze as a college student in 2008, I was very struck by the way young people flocked to Sanders but not Trump or Clinton.”

7. The Hispanic turnout factor


Historically, Hispanic registered voters have turned out to vote at much lower rates than white voters. (The chart above, using data from the United States Elections Project, includes only non-Hispanic whites.) In fact, Hispanics vote in presidential races at about the same rate as whites do in midterms. For years, whites turned out more than any other demographic group, which helped shape American politics — especially since whites are the largest demographic group in the country . . .
. . .Pew Research already anticipated that Hispanic voters would make up more of the electorate now than in years past simply by virtue of there being more Hispanic Americans than in elections past. (This trend is one reason that the percentage of the electorate that was nonwhite in 2014 was equivalent to the percentage that was nonwhite in that 2008 election.) That's without considering a possible spike in turnout among Hispanic voters.