How Much Was Hillary Clinton Hurt by Disaffected Progressives?


Among the many topics of reflection/recrimination will be whether Hillary would have done better if she fired up progressives more.

On the one hand, turnout was down across the board.  When turnout was higher, in the past two elections, Democrats did better.

But if you look closely, Hillary did about as well as Obama among progressives. Of those who voted, Hillary won them 84%-10% while Obama won 86%-11%.

While overall turnout was down, that doesnt appear to have hurt Hillary disproportionately: liberals actually made up a slightly bigger percentage of the electorate (26%) this election than last (25)%.  And the drops in turnout to be disproportionately in the states that Clinton carried anyway.

She actually dropped slightly more among self-described conservatives. It’s a little hard to picture who these people are but in 2012 Obama got 17% of self-described conservatives and Hillary got 15%, while their share of the electorate remained the same.

Meanwhile, Obama got 56% of moderates, and she got 52%, though moderates made up a smaller part of the electorate.

All in all, it looks like it would be hard to make the case that progressives staying home, voting third party or voting for Trump was really the key factor.  Of course Bernie Sanders didn’t just appeal to liberals, so it’s possible that a populist would have done better with both progressives and the moderate and conservative white working class.  The terms “liberal” and “moderate” may be particularly inadequate to describing the type of agitated blue-collar voter that Trump 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.