How Trump Cleaned Up With Late Deciders

As pollsters and reporters continue to investigate how they were so wrong about the results of the 2016 election in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the vote, there are some indications that the polls weren’t as far off as they first appeared. According to Aaron Blake at the Washington Post, for instance, Donald Trump’s seemingly-improbably victory could – at least partially – be explained by his enormous advantage among last-minute deciders.

“Some of the polls were wrong to a degree, yes,” Blake writes, “but there was also something at work in the final days of the election: People who decided late broke strongly for Donald Trump in the states that mattered, according to exit polls. And without this apparent late surge, Hillary Clinton would be our president-elect — not Trump.”

Blake says this pattern is clear in Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, four states without which Trump could not have won the election. In each of those states, exit polls indicate that voters who decided in the last week of the campaign broke heavily for the Republican nominee.

“In Florida and Pennsylvania, late-deciders favored Trump by 17 points,” he writes. “In Michigan, they went for Trump by 11 points. In Wisconsin, they broke for Trump by a whopping 29 points, 59-30.”

The question now becomes: Why did last-minute deciders choose to cast their vote for Trump? Was it because they liked what they saw from him in the final weeks of the campaign, where he brought renewed focus and discipline to the trail? Was it because of the infamous letter from FBI Director James Comey, which suggested that Hillary Clinton could still be in danger of a federal indictment? Or was it simply late-deciders following a common historical pattern in which they turn sharply against the incumbent party?

One possible deciding factor? Obamacare. For all the talk about the FBI investigation, voters in the battleground states may have been swayed less by that and more by the sticker shock they were getting from the health insurance industry. Many voters learned shortly before election day that their premiums under the Affordable Care Act were set to skyrocket. With Trump promising to repeal and replace the law, those premiums may well have been the deciding factor.

If the polls were closer to reality than they seemed on November 8, then it shows you the true lesson of the 2016 race: The only count that matters is the one on election day.


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