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Registered voters who didn’t vote cost Clinton the election

Big politics lesson: You can't win if people don't vote for you.


Andrew Couts


Published Jan 5, 2017   Updated May 25, 2021, 6:30 am CDT

Supporters of Hillary Clinton have a new group to blame for handing Donald Trump the election: Voters who didn’t vote.

A new poll conducted by SurveyMonkey and shared with FiveThirtyEight found that more Democratic-leaning registered voters stayed home on Election Day than Republican-leaning voters. Had these voters turned out, the theory goes, Clinton would be getting measured for a new inauguration pantsuit. 

The SurveyMonkey poll, conducted the first two days after Election Day (Nov. 9 and 10), was answered by 99,377 Americans, 3,604 of whom did not vote. FiveThirtyEight data whiz Harry Enten lays out three major findings from the survey:

  1. More of the non-voters qualified as likely Clinton voters; had they voted, Enton calculates that Clinton’s national lead over Trump would have risen by two or three percentage points.
  2. Black, Hispanic, Asian, and other members of minority groups made up 42 percent of the non-voters surveyed. If Clinton had turned out those votes, she almost certainly would have won.
  3. The number of registered voters who stayed home likely accounts for why the polls were so wrong in predicting Trump’s win.

Trump ultimately won the election by securing a greater number of electoral votes, but he lost the national popular vote by over 2.8 million votes. Had some 80,000 votes (out of more than 136 million) switched from Trump to Clinton across Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, Clinton would have won. 

Alas, the election is over. Trump will be sworn in on Jan. 20.

Read the full survey analysis at FiveThirtyEight.

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*First Published: Jan 5, 2017, 12:27 pm CST