One of many many tales to emerge from the raucous 2016 presidential major season centered on the idea of momentum: who had it, who didn’t, and what all of it meant for major outcomes. Did racking up a collection of early wins make voters in later primaries extra more likely to shift their help to the early winners? And in that case, may the social gathering’s nomination have gone to a special candidate if completely different states had voted sooner?
New analysis by Josh Clinton, Jon and Abby Winkelreid Professor of Political Science, means that the reply isn’t any.
The outcomes of this examine, “Knockout Blows or the Standing Quo? Momentum within the 2016 Primaries,” has simply been printed within the Journal of Politics. Vanderbilt graduate college students Andrew Engelhardt and Marc Trussler co-authored the peer-reviewed analysis.
“In the course of the 2016 election, the phrase ‘momentum’ was typically used to foretell or clarify the end result of a major election, but it surely was by no means actually clear whether or not voters had been really casting votes based mostly on a candidate’s earlier efficiency,” Clinton mentioned. “Regardless of the time period getting used so typically, we wished to see if voters had been altering their votes to help winners. Have been New Hampshire voters actually extra more likely to help the candidate who received the Iowa caucuses just because that candidate received? Or had been voters making their choices based mostly on the candidate they favored finest?”
To reply this query, the researchers mined an enormous trove of survey information—greater than 325,000 interviews, or almost 1,700 per day—collected almost each day beginning in December of 2015 and persevering with all through the 2016 major election utilizing NBC Information/SurveyMonkey monitoring polls that they helped write. The unprecedented measurement and scope of the info allowed them to trace candidates’ help all through the first season for a demographically balanced pattern of the U.S. voters.
To measure whether or not voters had been extra more likely to change their thoughts to help profitable candidates, the researchers in contrast the help for every candidate earlier than and after every state major to the day-to-day variation in help that occurred within the absence of major election occasions.
“If profitable a major created momentum amongst voters, we might anticipate to see a large fraction of voters’ altering their thoughts and supporting the profitable candidate after every major,” Clinton defined. “However in virtually each case, the shifts we see are largely indistinguishable from the atypical ebb and move we observe in public opinion.”
The researchers additionally checked out whether or not different major occasions corresponding to debates had been in a position to change voters’ minds. “We once more discovered no proof that voters had been reacting to debate performances in the course of the time interval we examined,” Clinton mentioned. “By the point of the Iowa caucuses, most voters appeared to have a very good sense of who they supported. Voters weren’t supporting candidates as a result of they had been profitable.”
When candidates did win a number of primaries in a row, Clinton mentioned, the explanation was often as a result of these states had related electorates, not as a result of the voters in later primaries had been drawn to profitable candidates. And when a candidate did begin to win a better share of the vote, he mentioned, it was as a result of different candidates had dropped out and the sphere was smaller.
Clinton cautioned that his findings don’t imply that staggered state primaries don’t make a distinction. Early efficiency can and does influence fundraising and media consideration–components that actually permit a candidate the flexibility to maintain campaigning. “However, at the least in 2016, we don’t see a complete lot of proof that voters had been altering their help based mostly on who received,” he mentioned.
“The truth that California is voting on Tremendous Tuesday in 2020 might certainly have giant penalties for the flexibility of candidates to stay viable, however our analysis means that its end result is unlikely to be impacted by who received South Carolina two weeks earlier than,” he mentioned. “Voters make choices based mostly on who’s working, not who’s profitable.”