The Dynamics of Voter Preferences in the 2016 Presidential Election

Aaron C. Weinschenk 1  and Costas Panagopoulos 2
  • 1 University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, 2420 Nicolet Drive, Green Bay, WI 54311, USA
  • 2 Northeastern University, Renaissance Park 958, Boston, MA 02115, USA
Aaron C. Weinschenk and Costas Panagopoulos

Abstract

Using daily polling data collected during the 2016 election, we examine the impact of fundamental conditions, campaign events, media coverage, and other relevant events and announcement on preference dynamics. We observe shifts in voter preferences for president over the course of the campaign and find evidence that these dynamics can be explained by specific circumstances and conditions. Our findings reinforce the potency of fundamental conditions, like presidential approval, but they also demonstrate that political events like national nominating conventions and debates can affect preferences in meaningful and enduring ways. Importantly, our research also suggests that developments commonly perceived to have affected voter preferences in 2016, like FBI Director James Comey’s memo to Congress about Hillary Clinton’s e-mails in October, likely exerted a minimal impact on the election, at least once the impact of other factors are taken into account. In this respect, some of our findings conflict with conventional accounts of campaign dynamics in 2016.

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