Despite numerous media reports of "Trump regretters," voters who cast ballots for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, but now wish they hadn't, a new poll shows that those reports may, in fact, be exaggerated — with only a small number of Trump voters now saying they wish they had voted for someone else, or not voted at all.
But even that small number — if they had voted last November the way they now wish they had voted — almost certainly would have been enough to turn that election around, putting Democrat Hillary Clinton in the White House rather than Trump.
The poll, sponsored by ABC News and the Washington Post, was conducted between April 17 and April 20, and was released last Saturday. The poll showed that an impressive 96 percent of Trump voters would vote for Trump again today — but that 4 percent would not.
That 4 percent translates to more than 2.5 million Trump votes that would not have been cast for him. Though she lost the Electoral College vote, and as a result, the presidency, Clinton was, by far, the more popular candidate with voters, winning the official, nationwide vote count by nearly 2.9 million.
Had those three swung the other way, Clinton would have won 272 electoral votes, surpassing the 270 required to win the White House. But in Michigan, she lost to Trump by 10,704 votes. In Wisconsin, the difference in Trump's favor was 22,748. And in Pennsylvania, Trump narrowly prevailed by 44,292 votes, according to final certified results.
Those 77,744 votes, less than 0.06 percent of the total votes cast — that's six 1/100ths of a percentage point — in last year's presidential election, had they gone for Clinton, or for that matter, any candidate other than Trump, would, in all likelihood, have swung the electoral college narrowly in Clinton's favor and given her the presidency in addition to her popular vote win.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll does not break down the numbers of Trump regretting voters by state, so it remains impossible to know exactly how the hypothetically reversed votes would have been distributed. But the poll revealed that 1 percent of Trump's voters now say they wish that had voted for Clinton.
Another one percent say that if they had it to do over again, they would vote for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, while another 2 percent said they would vote for someone else, or possibly no one.
Losing that 4 percent would have left Trump with 60,460,451 votes, or 44.2 percent, compared to the 46.1 percent he actually received.
Clinton actually won 48.2 percent — but adding in the 1 percent of Trump voters who now say they would have voted for her gives Clinton 66,474,406, or 48.7 percent, and a popular vote winning margin of more than 6 million votes over Trump's revised total. Trump's own campaign pollster, Tony Fabrizio, said in December that the election came down not just to three states, but to a mere five counties.
"If you change the vote in five counties, four in Florida, one in Michigan, we'd be having a totally opposite conversation right now," Fabrizio said at a post-election forum held at Harvard University. Those four counties, won narrowly by Trump, would have given Clinton a winning 277 electoral votes had they voted the other way.
Given the extraordinarily small number of votes that would have been needed to be cast differently in order to give Clinton the election victory, it appears statistically unlikely that Trump could have won if voters who now say they wish they had voted either for Clinton or anyone else — or not voted at all — had actually done so on November 8, 2016.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll also showed that a full 15 percent of Clinton voters said they would have voted differently. But the number for a losing candidate, by the Post's own admission, is unreliable.
"It's not hugely surprising that the losing candidate in an election would see this kind of drop-off," the Post article on the Trump regrets poll noted. "People don't like voting for losers, and if you look closely at polls after an election, some voters won't even admit to having cast their ballots for the losing candidate. The winning margin for the victor is generally exaggerated."
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