The early reports seemed clear: Hillary Clinton lost the election because nobody was excited enough about her candidacy to come out and vote. Remember this tweet that went around on Wednesday morning?
Fascinating #s— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) November 9, 2016
R vote down
But D down much more
Or maybe you saw this viral graph:
Based on these numbers, it seemed obvious what happened: A whole lot of people decided they couldn’t stand to pull the lever for Clinton and just stayed home. It made intuitive sense. Clinton was a bad candidate who couldn’t get people excited, and she took voters for granted in states like Wisconsin and Michigan. Case closed, right?
Except it turns out these initial tallies were grossly incomplete. Now that more votes have been counted, it’s becoming increasingly clear that support for Clinton wasn’t particularly low by recent standards.
Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third-party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth.
It's worth noting that population growth makes it all but inevitable that major-party candidates in the present will receive more votes than candidates from the past. It’s also undeniable that Clinton didn’t have nearly the level of support that Obama did in 2008 and 2012. But when assessing Clinton’s candidacy, it does seem worth noting that she got more votes than George W. Bush did in 2004, than John McCain did in 2008, than Mitt Romney did in 2012, and than Donald Trump did in 2016.