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PETER WICKHAM: Hate Trumps love

Peter Wickham, [email protected]

PETER WICKHAM: Hate Trumps love

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LIKE SO MANY other analysts, I have been somewhat shell-shocked by the results of Tuesday’s election which I reasonably believed Hillary Clinton would have won. The bases of my support have been well documented and now that she has lost, there are several perspectives that must be explored in this and other post-mortems.

Presumably, readers would be curious about my take on the “failure” of the polls and the lack of logic in Clinton’s strategy to target the battleground states while leaving her “blue wall” vulnerable. These issues are important; however, one notes the extent to which virtually everyone has become a political strategist overnight, so it is perhaps best that I defer to such experts now and offer professional opinions on another occasion.

Notwithstanding, I have chosen to highlight one issue on this occasion largely because it speaks to a similar issue which arose in 2013 that produced an equally peculiar outcome.  In the case of Barbados 2013, CADRES concluded that one of the reasons the outcome differed from the poll projections (within the margin of error) was because of the comparatively lower voter turnout compared to 2008.  Projecting voter turnout is notoriously complex and within the confines of our limited capacity, CADRES makes projections based on a crude assumption that persons who promise to vote will do so and those who do not tell us their intentions, will vote as they did historically.  This model has worked for us; however, American pollsters have built complex models which contemplate turnout scenarios that would impact on the result.  

In the case of 2013, our review concluded that the BLP was more negatively impacted by the lower turnout and it is interesting that pollsters in the US also concluded that the estimated 55.6 per cent turnout nationally in 2016 was lower than that of 2012.  Indeed, the two most surprising outcomes, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, were characterised by a turnout that was significantly lower than the already low national average. In the simplest of terms, polling which identified a winning level of support for Clinton and Owen Arthur, would now appear incorrect in a situation where voters who promised to support them did not show up.

Clearly, therefore, the issue of turnout was a key factor in both instances which affected the success of the candidates and appeared also to be an indictment of the polls. There is, therefore, an important lesson to be learnt as we understand the impact of a lower voter turnout and the extent to which this is influenced by what Americans call voter enthusiasm which was clearly lacking for both Clinton and Arthur.  In both instances, there were also clear concerns about the opponent which drove voters to see themselves voting for the “least offensive” and in such situations, a voter caught in this dilemma seems more inclined to remain at home, which could cost that “least offensive” candidate a vote which was promised and reflected in a poll.

Empirical lessons aside, in the wake of this election I am more preoccupied with the greater significance of a Trump victory especially as one notes the extent to which this man is eminently unqualified and lacking in temperament, along with being racist, sexist and misogynistic.  Certainly, someone like this who has accumulated as much wealth as he has is already dangerous and one wonders why any right-thinking voter would want to endow such an individual with all the political powers associated with the office of president. This analysis, of course, contextualises danger from a personal level; however, there is also a long term and broader danger associated with the fact that Americans have effectively now endorsed these values while rejecting Clinton’s inclusiveness.  One is, therefore, left to conclude that America is a country that places a high premium on the most negative values imaginable, which is particularly problematic when one considers America’s moral leadership in this world.


Peter W. Wickham is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES). Email: [email protected]