The Real Numbers Behind Trump's Support

Donald Trump is a professional salesman, and he is actively doing his absolute best to sell to the American public that he is the undisputed front-runner, the party favorite, the populist leader of the Republican party, and therefore deserves its uncontested support.  When headlines appear that show that Trump wins X Primary with X% votes, for example, it's easy to feel the tug of his compelling sales pitch.  So how much of the population is truly supporting Donald Trump through the nomination process?  I thought we should boil the numbers down to evaluate:

In any given contest, there is a percentage of voters which cast their vote for Trump.  The vote percentage shown (e.g. 45.9% in Nevada Caucus) is the percentage of votes for Trump out of the total votes cast during the Republican Primary or Caucus.  But, it is critical to keep in mind that the voters participating in each Primary or Caucus contest are only a subset of registered Republicans for that particular state*; and registered Republicans are only a subset of all of the Voting-Eligible Population within a given state; and Voting-Eligible Population is only a subset of the Voting Age Population of a given state.  Let's take for example Nevada-- a state that Trump won early on by a surprisingly large margin.  Below is a nested circle diagram which illustrates the point-- the area of each circle represents the subsets of population described above.  Trump's 45.9% victory, when viewed in terms of the total Voting Age Population of Nevada, takes on an entirely new, diminutive context:

Here is a link to a spreadsheet of data and calculations from all of the states which have already held their primary or caucus contests in 2016 (as of 3/28), along with the appropriate statistics of current state population, registered Republican voters, Voting-Eligible Population estimates and Voting-Age Population estimates, and finally the number of Primary/Caucus votes cast in favor of Donald Trump.  From this data we can contrast the difference between A) the % of votes in favor of Trump within the Republican contest, and B) the % of Voting-Eligible Population (from all parties) voting for Trump.

State% Trump Votes Among Rep. Voters% of VEP for Trump
New Hampshire34.9%9.7%
South Carolina32.2%6.5%
District of Columbia13.8%0.1%
North Carolina40.2%6.3%

What can we take away from the data shown above and from the source data in the spreadsheet?  For one thing, Primary voter turnout rates are still embarrassingly low at appx. 20% of all those who are eligible to vote.  The result of this is that in several states where Trump produced a surprisingly strong win (e.g. Nevada, Hawaii, etc.), this is simply because of abysmally low Republican voter turnout.  Yes, Trump won Hawaii with 42.4% of votes, but among a state with a population over 1 million, Trump only mustered a little over 5,600 votes-- but that was enough to clinch an additional 11 delegates.  Across all 32 contests so far, Trump is garnering less than 5% of votes from all those who would be eligible to vote.  Let me put that another way:  The percentage of voters choosing Trump for President is currently less than the percentage of convicted felons in AmericaIs that the least bit distressing for you?  For someone with support from such a small fraction of the population to be on the cusp of being officially nominated for election as President of the United States?

So yes, Donald Trump is currently doing better than other candidates-- but doing better than others doesn't mean you're doing well.  This is one reason why, despite his protestations, a contested Convention may not only be fair but highly appropriate.  Why is Republican voter turnout so low?  What could we do as a Nation to fix this voting system?  Topics for future posts, I confess.  Just keep in mind, the next time you hear vote percentages for a Primary win, that in reality there's much more (or, much less) than meets the eyes behind those numbers.

*Several states do not allow for declaring political party affiliation when registering to vote.