A staggering number of white women voted for Trump, an openly sexist, racist, xenophobic and homophobic candidate.
Why did Clinton lose the election? Compared to President Obama in 2012, she brought out lower numbers of voters in total, lower numbers of ethnic minority voters, and lower numbers of women, while men voted against her by a huge margin. Why?
I think it’s to do with a deep-seated psychological aversion among men, and a significant number of women, to upend the gender power structure of American society. This is drilled into people at the most basic level: the family.
A significantly greater proportion of men were opposed to Secretary Clinton than voted against President Obama. According to Pew, Obama won male votes over McCain by 1%, and lost them to Romney by 7%; Trump won men by a 12-point margin.
There’s no denying that race was a strong motivator in this election: Trump was a “unity candidate” for white people scared of ethnic minority power – the only white demographic Trump didn’t win was college-educated white women, and Clinton only won 51% of them.
We should remember the fact that white people made up 70% of voters, and Clinton significantly won every ethnic minority demographic. 88% of black voters backed Secretary Clinton, although again this was down from Obama’s leads (91 in 2008 and 93 in 2012). It’s not much of a surprise that a white woman won less of the minority vote than President Obama, but this does indicate a shift in focus towards gender in 2016.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate, won white voters by almost the same margin as Trump: 20 points in 2012 vs. 21 in 2016. This year there was a small decrease in turnout, and women made up 52% of voters.
In 2016, men were scared. Obama had represented less of a threat to their status in society; for men, voting for Clinton represented an attack on their power and status in the family. A striking statistic, from SurveyMonkey’s exit poll is that, had only married men voted, Trump would have won 60% of the vote. This almost doubles his actual lead, and he would have won all but three states in the Electoral College (nerd fact: because Hawaii gives their college votes to the nationally popular candidate, and DC isn’t yet a state).
But men aren’t the only ones to blame. A staggering number of white women voted for Trump, an openly sexist (and racist, xenophobic, homophobic…) candidate. In the Edison exit polls, 42% of women voted Republican. Again, ethnic minority voters buck the trend here, with 94% of Black women and 68% of Latina women voting for Clinton, along with 61% of other non-white women.
It seems clear, then, that this vote was a referendum on status within America, but on a much closer level than the 2012 or 2008 elections. Barack Obama could win where Clinton couldn’t because white American men, and a surprising proportion of other groups, were prepared to accept a Black president as less of a threat to their power than a female president. This isn’t to say race didn’t play a part, and the treatment of Obama’s presidency by the right wing show that much of white America was up in arms against ethnic minority power as much as it is now against female power. This time, though, it’s far closer to home for millions.
Featured Image Credit- Wikicommons