The 2016 election saw a record number of Americans go to the polls, a total of 137.5 million, according to data collected by the United States Census. But that all-time high number nonetheless represented a total voter turnout of 61.4 percent — meaning that nearly four of every 10 voting-eligible Americans simply stayed home rather than cast a ballot for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton — or even one of the minor candidates on the ballot.
Of course, despite Clinton winning about 2.8 million more votes than Trump, of those voters who bothered to cast ballots, according to the Cook Political Report, Trump won the election anyway by scratching out narrow victories in enough states to give him 304 electoral votes.
That figure is 34 more than the 270 needed to win the White House, according to 270ToWin.com. Clinton took 227 electoral votes.
But what if voting was mandatory by law in the United States, and those four of every 10 voters who sat this one out had been required to cast ballots? Which candidate would have won the 2016 election then?
The Economist magazine, after what the publication’s data journalist G. Elliot Morris called on Twitter “a mammoth effort for The Economist’s data team,” came up with an answer.
And their answer shows that liberal-leaning voters who chose not to vote cost Clinton the presidency.
According to an explanation of how the study was conducted posted by Morris via Medium.com, the statisticians, attempting to find out who would have won a hypothetical 2016 election with 100 percent voter turnout, used a method called “multi-level regression and post-stratification.”
So what’s that?
“It involves combining national polls with information about individual voters to make predictions at different geographic levels,” Morris wrote, adding that for their data source, the researchers used the Harvard University Cooperative Congressional Election Study, a massive survey of 64,600 American adults.
Applying the multi-level regression and post-stratification to the data, the Economist statisticians were able to use “the relationships between demography and vote choices…to project state-level election results—and to estimate what might have happened in the past under different rules.”
They found that if everyone eligible had actually voted, Trump’s “base” — which as The Inquisitr has reported consists of white voters without college degrees — loses some of its influence, becoming just 48 percent of the total voting population, rather than 52 percent as they were in 2016.
If everyone were required to vote, the study found, candidates would be forced to focus more on “swing” voters, and less on “whipping their bases into a frenzy.”
But even though candidates would be pushed to the “center” of the political spectrum, the increased voter turnout on the part of young people and ethnic minorities would cause the “center” to sit on the more “left wing” end of the spectrum, compared to where it is currently.
So what would have happened in 2016 if voting was mandatory for Americans? The most likely scenario identified by the researchers was an Electoral College landslide for Clinton, who would have won 338 electoral votes to just 200 for Trump — giving Clinton and the Democratic Party control of the presidency.