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Why Trump Won the 2016 Elections

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Donald Trump was an unlikely candidate and even an implausible winner of the 2016 general election in the United States. Many events occurred during elections, and they all played both prominent and minor roles in enabling his ultimate election into the office of the President of the United States. Among these factors was his use of social media to increase popularity and reduce the number of Democrats who voted. Foreign interference and being portrayed as an outsider also worked in his favor. It gave the illusion that he could deliver on change more effectively than the political elite that existed at the time.


The politics in the United States are currently more divisive than ever, and there are efforts by each group to show that they are the better leader for the United States. The 2020 elections witnessed the highest turnout of any election, and Joe Biden won with a difference of more than 7 million votes of the popular vote. It raises the question of how Donald Trump won the 2016 elections and which factors were the most decisive in making the election go in his favor. Donald Trump won the 2016 election with 304 electoral votes against Hillary Clinton, who had 227 electoral votes. Even though Hilary Clinton won the popular vote with 65,853,514 votes, Trump had 62,984,828 votes. Trump surprised the United States by winning the 2016 elections, and it is fair to say that with the right conditions, it could happen again.

The Outsider

One of the factors that made Trump stand out from a very early stage was that he was an outsider. Trump has had a long business and media career, making him a well-known public figure in the United States. Shows like the apprentice had helped create a strong brand for him as Trump and is a wealthy and capable business person (Oh, & Kumar, 2017). He, however, did not have any experience in politics. He had not even been considered a practical option by many people as being a person who could be the United States President.

When it came to the voters, the fact that Trump was an outsider was lovely. Many people across different political parties are part of the political establishment, considering that they have a long-running connection with people in powerful positions. The idea of an outsider coming into the scene and helping solve many of the problems affecting people was attractive. The outsider effect was present in the Republican nomination process, where many other experienced politicians were unable to beat Trump for the ticket. The attraction went on to play in the general elections where voters voted for Trump as they felt that he would help solve the country’s problems.

Democrats Failing To Vote in Large Numbers

From comparing the voter turnout in the elections leading up to the 2016 election, it is evident that the number of democrats going to vote had been reducing. In 2008, 69 million democrats went to vote compared to 59 million republicans. In 2012, 65 million democrats voted compared to 60 million republicans. In 2016, 60 million democrats voted compared to 59 million republicans (Morgan & Lee, 2018). What is evident through this data is that the number of republicans that showed up to vote was broadly consistent throughout the three elections. However, the critical difference is that the number of democrats that went to vote reduced considerably from a high of 69 million to a low of 60 million voters.

Many democrats voting had allowed Barrack Obama to win the two previous elections with wide margins in many states. The large margins played a critical role in enabling Obama to win the electoral votes in many States, and it helped him win over the Republican Party in both cases. In 2016, the Democrats who showed up to vote were lesser, which reduced the advantage that the Democratic Party had held. It was a significant contributor to Donald Trump’s win in the national elections.

Controversies and Divisiveness

Throughout the campaign and election period, Trump’s divisive nature set him apart from the competitors he was facing. Among the controversies that occurred were when Trump insulted John McCain, a decorated war veteran, and a fellow republican. Trump also picked up a fight with Megan Kelly and Fox News as a whole for saying things that were against his views. There was also a recording where he stated that he would make unwanted women’s approaches in different instances. He only slightly apologized for an event as controversial. There were also recordings of him mocking a beauty pageant for her weight, and it was a clear case of body shaming which most people considered to be immoral.

The many controversies affected his polls only slightly and even attracted more people from the far right that would not have considered voting and made them go and vote (McKee, Smith, & Hood, 2019). The process also increased to his unconventional way of moving crowds even when he was not saying the most essential or practical policies. Trump did not understand the government policies in detail when undertaking many of his rallies. Still, he gave speeches that were populist and that directly increased his popularity among the crowds.


While the media’s role may have been unintentional, it is notable that the media played a critical role in Donald Trump’s election win in 2016. Due to his politics’ controversial and divisive nature, it became evident that many of the media stations would cover him more than they covered the other candidates. The strategy was effective for them as it allowed them to gain more ratings as more people viewed the character they considered to be a joker. On the other hand, the process helped Trump gain even more popularity in many places where he was unknown. The media buzz created by focusing on Trump’s enabled him to win the Republican nominations. It also helped him win the national elections, which could have been considerably harder to do without the extensive media coverage.

Winning the Swing States

One of the 2016 elections’ stand-out events was the ability of the Republican Party to win elections in states that democrats had previously won. Trump was able to appeal to a large rural majority that had once voted democrats into power and attracted them to vote the Republican Party into power. This strategy allowed him to get votes from states such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and even Michigan (Farley, 2019). These are states that have a high population, and they had all traditionally voted for the democrats. The situation changed in 2016 when Trump won in these states and got all the states’ crucial electoral votes. It was among the most significant wins for Donald Trump and the Republican Party as a whole.

Foreign Interference

While the impact of foreign interference is debatable, it is a known fact that foreign nations were actively involved in the process of interfering with the democratic nature of the United States elections. The most notable was the interference that was sponsored and led by the Russian government. The harking of the Democratic Party servers and the release of critical emails between the top officials was a significant blow to the party. Even worse was Hilary Clinton’s emails, who was the candidate for the party, and these emails were even more controversial and divisive in many ways. These leaked emails impacted the Clinton campaign negatively and even led to a drop in their poles and popularity. All this played very well in the Trump campaign team, and it considerably increased the chances for success simply by making the other team weaker.


In general, Trump surprised the United States by winning the 2016 elections, and it is fair to say that with the right conditions, it could happen again. There were both internal and external factors that led to Trump’s win, and these factors could occur again, especially in the current divisive nature of the American political system. The disinformation in the country has also increased, which only increases the chances of having Trump win again. Trump himself has just started attending political rallies even after the loss to Biden, so it is fair to say that we have not had the last of Trump.


Farley, J. E. (2019). Five decisive States: Examining how and why Donald Trump won the 2016 election. The Sociological Quarterly60(3), 337-353.

McKee, S. C., Smith, D. A., & Hood, M. T. (2019). The Comeback Kid: Donald Trump on Election Day in 2016. PS: Political Science & Politics52(2), 239-242.

Morgan, S. L., & Lee, J. (2018). Trump voters and the white working class. Sociological Science5, 234-245.

Oh, C., & Kumar, S. (2017). How Trump won: the role of social media sentiment in political elections. In Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems (PACIS). Association for Information Systems.

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