There are four primary attributes that determine the support a politician gets. These four factors are Party, Personality, Priority, and Policy. The most over-hyped of these attributes is Policy. Hillary Clinton absolutely annihilated by Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump on having a detailed list of policies, at least in certain areas. However she barely beat out one and lost to another. This was because she totally failed to consider the other three attributes.
I assign the number of voters primarily concerned with each attribute in the following way: 40% for Party, 25% for Priority, 20% for Personality, and 15% for Policy. In the Democratic Primary the split more or less went like this:
- Party| 30% for Hillary, 10% for Sanders
- Priority| 15% for Sanders, 10% for Hillary
- Personality 15% for Sanders, 5% for Hillary
- Policy| 10% for Hillary, 5% for Sanders
Hillary came out ahead with 55% of the votes. This is the same % she got in the primary. The majority of her share came from Party with 30%/55%. She won 3/1. Next she won 2 to 1 in Policy. She lost 3 to 1 in Personality and she lost 3 to 2 in Priority. Luckily for her the share of votes she won 3 to 1 was worth 3x as much as the share Sanders won 3 to 1. An even split in party puts Sanders in her 55/45 position. Evening out Personality only gets her a 5% swap.
The split in the general election was more like this:
- Party| 20% for Hillary, 20% for Trump
- Priority| 14% for Trump, 11% for Hillary
- Personality| 13% for Trump, 7% for Hillary
- Policy| 13% for Hillary, 2% for Trump
That equals out to their actual totals with Hillary 2% in the lead. The secret is that contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a 40% floor for each Party totaling out to 80% of the vote, with the rest of the vote based on Policy quality. The share for Party only appears to be so large because Priority often parallels Party in our 2 party system and since Policy is often pretty equal that looks like an even split. In general one candidates runs on Personality, and one candidate runs on Policy while Priority is pretty even. Priority only tilts when one candidate, like Trump or Sanders, runs away from the centrist party line.
Obama vs Romney or Obama vs Clinton are good examples of Personality vs Policy. Romney and Clinton were both easily more qualified and able to understand Policy. Lest you doubt me, Obama gave an interview to boost Hillary while officially staying neutral saying he made some mistakes in his promises and that her pragmatism was often more realist than his empty idealism. Say that Party and Priority split their voters pretty evenly. Obama rode Personality to victory, something like 15% to 5% vs Romney and Clinton while losing Policy 5% to 10% vs both. That put him at 20/20 Party, 12.5/12.5 Priority, and then 15/5 Personality and 5/10 Policy. So 52.5 vs 47.5 against both. Sanders was week against Clinton on Party by a landslide so he lost the primary. But had he got to the general he could have hit Trump something like this:
- Party| 20 for Sanders, 20 for Trump
- Priority| 15 for Sanders, 10 for Trump
- Personality| 10 for Sanders, 10 for Trump
- Policy| 9 for Sanders, 6 for Trump
Sanders comes up 54, Trump comes up 46. This is a different coalition from Obama whose races against Romney/McCain went something like this:
- Party| 20 for Obama, 20 for McCain
- Priority| 14.5 for Obama, 10.5 for McCain
- Personality| 12 for Obama, 8 for McCain
- Policy| 7 for Obama, 8 for McCain
That totaled out to 53.5 for Obama, 46.5 for McCain.
- Party| 20 for Obama, 20 for Romney
- Priority| 14 for Obama, 11 for Romney
- Personality| 13 for Obama, 7 for Romney
- Policy| 6 for Obama, 9 for Romney
That totaled out to 52.0 Obama, 48.0 for Romney.
Trump scores better on Personality and worse on Policy than either of his predecessors whether vs Sanders or Clinton. McCain, combined with Palin, scored better on Personality than Romney/Ryan, who are basically similar politicians, but worse on Priority. Sanders and Obama have similar Personality scores and relatively similar Policy scores. Sanders loses to Obama on Policy a bit but gets a boost on Priority.
Many people wonder why Clinton does so poorly compared to Obama and why Sanders and Trump have such good scores against her compared to what we’d expect Obama to have to deal with. She’s so qualified. But she loses out on Personality and Priority enough to more than make up for it. She lost to Obama on Personality but she squelched Sanders with her Party power. That advantage however failed to translate into a general election where the other 3 categories are more relevant. Party aligned voters basically don’t count in the general election because the candidate is irrelevant to them once you move out of the primaries.
An 11 point lead on Policy is impressive but when you are losing 3 on Priority and 6 on Personality and your voters are disproportionately urban and therefore weak electorally, even such a colossal level of qualification can’t save it for you. Hillary Clinton was perhaps the most qualified presidential candidate in history, only really lacking executive experience, and the voters collectively asked her: “So what?”