Did Green Party candidate Jill Stein cost Democrat Hillary Clinton the election?
Not by herself, but possibly in conjunction with Libertarian Gary Johnson.
A review of the seven key states that made Donald Trump the president elect, shows that Stein’s vote total was higher than Trump’s margin in two of those states: Wisconsin and Michigan. In addition, in Florida, the combined vote total for Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson was higher than Trump’s margin of victory.
Stein had harsh words for Clinton during the primary. According to Rolling Stone, she tweeted, “I agree with Hillary, it’s time to elect a woman for President. But I want that President to reflect the values of being a mother. #MothersDay.” When she was criticized, she responded by calling Clinton a “war monger,” said Rolling Stone.
Some voters are upset at third-party voters, as well as at celebrities, like Susan Sarandon, who urged a vote for them.
What would have happened in the electoral college if Clinton had won Wisconsin and Michigan by obtaining all or most of Jill Stein’s votes (no sure thing, at all)?
Trump would still win.
Why? Because he picked up an additional blue state, Pennsylvania (as well as states that were deadlocked in the polls or where he had led slightly: North Carolina, Ohio and Florida). Here’s the electoral college map if Clinton had won Wisconsin and Michigan:
However, if Libertarian Gary Johnson and Stein did indeed siphon votes from Clinton in Florida, and if she had received enough of those votes (again, no sure thing), and if Stein hadn’t been on the ballot in Wisconsin and Michigan, and if those voters would then have voted for Clinton…Trump would have lost. In other words, Clinton would have won if she could have won those three states: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida.
Of course, those are a lot of ifs. Maybe Jill Stein voters are so angry at the two-party system that, if Stein had not been in the race, they would have stayed home. Or voted for Gary Johnson. Or written in Mickey Mouse.
There’s no question, though, that anti-establishment fever was also apparent on the left; after all, Bernie Sanders voters needed somewhere to go. Clinton, with her Goldman Sachs speeches and her Washington pedigree, could not credibly claim an outsider mantle.
Is it possible some Hillary Clinton voters switched over to Johnson in Florida (and other states)? Of course, it’s possible. Johnson, with his pro-marijuana legalization views and moderate running mate, William Weld, might have appealed to some Democratic or Democratic-leaning Independent voters who normally would have voted Democratic but didn’t like Clinton, whose unfavorable ratings were around Trump’s and who was painted as an elitest for months by Sanders in a heated primary.
The third-party share of the electorate was up in some of the key states. It was up by 2 percentage points in Pennsylvania, 4 percentage points in Michigan, and 6 percentage points in Wisconsin. Trump won by only 1 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania in 2016; overall voting in Pennsylvania was up over 2012.
However, many people believe that Johnson’s get-government-out-of-our-lives mantra could have appealed more to disaffected conservatives. Some of the other third-party candidates on the ballot have conservative platforms too. For example, Constitution Party nominee Darrell Castle was on the ballot in Wisconsin and Michigan. The party is pro-life and talks a lot about Biblical scripture on its website; reading through its issue positions, it’s hard to imagine many Hillary Clinton voters heading that way.
There were many other reasons leading to Trump’s success, including disaffected rural, white voters in western areas of the critical rust-belt states who supported Trump.
Stein was not on the ballot in all states; in one of those state, Nevada, Clinton won, even though the polls had shown the race deadlocked. She was also not on the ballot in the battleground states of North Carolina and Georgia, although voters were able to write her name in.
Here are overall margins of victory in the critical states compared to Jill Stein’s and Gary Johnson’s margins in each state, per state records:
Overall Trump margin of victory: 27,257 votes
Jill Stein vote total: 30,980
Gary Johnson vote total: 106,442
Overall Trump margin of victory: 13,107 votes
Jill Stein vote total: 51,427
Gary Johnson vote total: 172,726
Overall Trump margin of victory: 71,794
Jill Stein vote total: 48,657
Gary Johnson vote total: 142,334 (with 99.93% in)
Other Key States
Overall Trump margin of victory: 119,489
Jill Stein vote total: 64,060
Gary Johnson vote total: 206,189
Overall Trump margin of victory: 454,983
Jill Stein vote total: 44,310
Gary Johnson vote total: 168,599
Overall Trump margin of victory: 177,009
Jill Stein vote total: Not on ballot, 692 write-in votes
Gary Johnson: 127,746
Overall Trump margin of victory: 148,081
Jill Stein vote total: 11,406
Gary Johnson vote total: 58,906