In the media and among the public it’s popular to cite the statistic half the United States voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. I don’t know how it’s usually cited, but on its face that statement ignores the nuance that Trump won against Hillary Clinton due to the Electoral College, while Clinton won the popular vote. So literally less than half of individual Americans who voted did so for Trump in 2016.
47% of voters voted for Trump. That is on the backdrop of 59.7% of eligible voters voting at all in the 2016 election. For the sake of easy multiplication, let’s round that voter turnout to ~60%.
So 28.2% of eligible voters in the United States voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. That number excludes U.S. citizens under the age of majority who can’t yet vote, as well as others such as prisoners in some U.S. states, numbering in millions. So we could fairly shave off a few more percentage points of Americans who voted for Trump.
25% of Americans voted for Trump in 2016 doesn’t mean those voters were enthusiastic supporters of Trump, perhaps perceiving him as the lesser of two evils for whatever reason. This 25% doesn’t include anyone who voted for Trump in 2016 who has since disavowed him since his election.
This is important to keep in mind when the number of Americans who voted for Trump, and are thus racists or fascists or whatever, is cited as half the country. I’m assuming you’re willing to interpret Trump voters in 2016 charitably and conclude anyone who voted for Trump for in 2016 is necessarily themselves a racist or fascist. So whoever among Trump’s electors are out and out racists, what could ultimately be a trivial percentage of Americans who turn out to be KKK bogeymen is inflated to being “half the country”. By the same token, extremists among Trump supporters could to the public claim to have more representation across the country than they actually have by claiming half the country stands in solidarity with them. Both these forms of propaganda stoke unnecessary division and polarization to further agendas seeking conflict among Americans.
More importantly, if someone is making a claim regarding how democratic and representative, or not, the 2016 presidential election turned out to be, and are talking about the percentage who voted for Trump, they’re diverting focus from more important aspects of democratization in the United States today. Talking about everyone who voted for Trump neglects talking about the nearly 40% of Americans eligible to vote in the 2016 presidential election who didn’t. Talking about issues like gerrymandering or the Electoral College as is which let Trump win the election despite his loss of the popular vote by a significant margin to Clinton.
Ultimately, statistics like
- half the United States voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election and;
- half the country still currently supports Trump in any meaningful sense based on that voter turnout for Trump in 2016,
aren’t based on any solid evidence. These claims are not facts. Any statements like these should not be cited or spread so as not to spread misinformation for any reason. If ever you’re in an argument online citing the statistic that supposedly half the United States turned out for Trump in 2016, feel free to use these arguments to demonstrate these claims are false. Ultimately, if someone cares about voter turnout, they should be focusing on getting out the almost 40% of eligible American voters who didn’t vote in the 2016 Presidential election.