Beware of These Dubious Emerging Storylines


Once they set in, certain story lines become embedded in the public mind and hard to shake. Here are a few “conclusions” that seem to be forming that already don’t comport with what the exit polls show.

This was a revolution of the economically downtrodden.

Many pundits were saying Donald Trump’s victory was fueled by people who are economically dispossessed and struggling.  Here’s what the exit polls actually showed:

Voters with incomes under $50,000 went for Clinton 52%-41%.   Over $50,000 went for Trump 49% to 47%

That’s not to say economic anxiety wasn’t a factor in eroding support for Clinton. She did lose among those without college degrees. Relative to 2012, he did better with less affluent than Romney. But the bulk of his winning coalition was wealthier.

The alienation seems more complex – having more to do with racial standing and a sense of whether their futures seem bleak or hopeful more than whether they can actually put bread on the table at that moment.

This was a Trump landslide.

It was shocking. It was disruptive. It was unambiguous. But by recent historical standards, it was not a landslide. For one thing, Hillary may end up winning the popular vote.  That would mean Democrats will have won the popular vote 6 of the last 7 times.

Beyond that, in the last ten elections, the winning candidate got more than 300 electoral college votes seven times. If you look at both the popular and electoral college, this would count as the second or third closest election of the last ten.

It’s the triumph of the rural areas

Trump clobbered Clinton in rural areas 62% to 17%. But that was only slightly better than Romney, who got 59%, and rural areas still represented only 17% of the electorate. Trump won because he also carried the suburbs 50%-45%

It’s because Hillary was perceived as so dishonest.

No doubt she would have done better if she wasn’t viewed by so many people as corrupt. Still, slightly more people in the electorate viewed Trump as dishonest and untrustworthy than Clinton, and he still won.

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Steven Waldman is founder of, a platform for online memorials and life milestones. He's a Washington Monthly contributing editor, journalist and author.