In the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in the electoral college, thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest. One of their loudest rallying cries is that Secretary Clinton was the most popular candidate. Clinton won nearly a million more votes than President-elect Trump. This is only partially true: the most popular candidate among all registered voters in the United States was: nobody.
In the popular vote, Clinton beat Trump by approximately seven hundred thousand (as of the most recent count). This may sound like a lot. In fact, it’s almost nothing when compared to the nearly one hundred million who stayed at home. If one made an electoral map for the living room couch, it would have beaten all other candidates by a very healthy margin. Voter turnout is at a two-decade low.
The media narrative has focused heavily on voter turnout, and rightly so. Compared to 2012, the Democrats had a four million drop in votes. Republicans, despite having a much larger vote share, were only down less than a million. The only parties to increase their raw numbers significantly were the Libertarian Party and the Green Party.
This leads to an obvious question: why is turnout down? There is also, an obvious answer: Americans hated both President-elect Trump and Secretary Clinton. Many in the Libertarian Party and Green Party hoped that this would propel them into the spotlight. This was somewhat true. The Libertarians saw their share of the vote triple, as many voters did decide to vote for a third party in lieu of the main candidates. Most voters, however, decided that it was simply not a good use of their time to wait in line for an hour to vote for someone they didn’t like (main parties) or didn’t think could win (third parties).
If party leaders hope to see turnout rise in the future, they are going to have to put forward better candidates. If they do not, we are likely to see a continuation of this downward trend in turnout. The establishment will likewise see an upward trend in people abandoning the GOP and Democrats for third parties.