Rethinking American Voters

Everyone got the 2016 election wrong. Nate Silver. InTrade.
RealClearPolitics.

Even Trump himself.

And to be fair, they did get one thing right: Hillary was more
popular, winning some 3 million more votes.

Not that that mattered. Obviously.

Demographic predictors, generational predictors, polling predictors:
they were all wrong. Latinos voted for Trump in higher numbers than
expected; Millennials didn’t sweep Hillary to victory; hell, even the
aggregate polls, which gave a huge, comfortable margin to Hillary,
failed to predict Trump’s electoral win.

Trump won a regional and generational victory. He dominated the
Midwest, South, and West, and took the elderly and middle aged while
splitting Generation X.

We’re all individuals until we vote. Obviously, some 63,000,000
people all made a common choice to help elect Donald Trump.

Voting is not a choice that involves a lot of hems and haws. You
don’t get a box that says “Explain yourself” below your vote. You
click, tick, bubble, or draw — and you walk away. The system neither
knows nor cares about your whys: it instead piles you into a massive
register where each vote is as indistinguishable as the next.

There can be lots and lots of reasons why you choose what you do. But
you’ve really only got two viable choices and a bunch of protest votes
you can waste your ballot on.

And so if we have only a limited set of choices, we need to think of
the limited ways we approach those choices.

So I’d like to propose something.

We should draw on what already works. Hofstede Cultural Dimensions
theory helps measure core national values; inspired by that theory, we
can label the core political values of regional voters in the United
States.

Struass-Howe generation theory helps measure generational archetypes
and attitudes: inspired by that, we can provide labels for
generational political archetypes.

There are four generational archetypes and five regional ones.
Intersecting the two creates a voting pattern. None of these
archetypes are based in time or place: they are, rather, the labels we
apply to a given voter who aligns with these qualities. In other
words, being a 25-year-old New Yorker does not automatically make a
Millennial Northeasterner: being a risk averse, rigid ideology, who
approach their lifestyle in an industrial, egotistical, dogmatic,
legalistic way does. That kind of person could be anywhere in the
United States.

The Generations — The approach to politics (explains the popular vote)

Silent Generation — Recessive generation
Baby Boomer — Dominant generation
Generation X — Recessive generation
Millenial — Dominant generation

The Regions — Approaches to lifestyles (explains the Electoral College vote)

The Northeast — The Factory Voters
The South — The Plantation Voters
The Midwest — The Crossroad Voters
The West — The Frontier Voter
The Pacific — The Hippie Voter

So what are the qualities that make these folks up?

We should take a page from cultural dimensions theory and assign
approaches to culture that add up to a voting pattern. Here’s what
that looks like:

Approaches to politics (The Popular Vote)

Ideology — how important a voter holds ideology (Pragmatic vs. dogmatic)
Risk — how important stability is to a voter (Risk averse vs. risk-prone)

Approaches to lifestyles (The Electoral College)

Outcomes — how a voter sees outcomes come about from any given
situation, either through measured, timed efficiency, or rhythmic,
broad strokes (Industrial vs. seasonal)
Work — how a person sees advancement in work: either through
ego-driven self-aggrandizement, or polite turn waiting (Egotistical
vs. polite)
Morality — how a person defines their moral compass: through either
the letter of the law or the spirit of the law (Doctrinal vs.
spiritual)
Conflict resolution — how a person resolves conflict: either through
rules based legalism, or culture based honor codes (Legal code vs.
honor code)

We can then break up both approaches to politics with how people apply
their lifestyle rules to politics.

Silent Generation

Pragmatic ideology
Risk averse

Baby Boomers

Rigid ideology
Risk prone

Generation X

Pragmatic ideology
Risk prone

Millenial

Rigid ideology
Risk averse

Over that, we can lay lifestyle rules to a regional label.

The Northwest

Outcomes: Industrial
Work: Egotistical
Morality: Dogmatic
Conflict resolution: Legalistic

The South

Outcomes: Seasonal
Work: Polite
Morality: Spiritual
Conflict resolution: Honor code

The Midwest

Outcomes: Seasonal
Work: Polite
Morality: Spiritual
Conflict resolution: Honor code

The West

Outcomes: Seasonal
Work: Egotistical
Morality: Spiritual
Conflict resolution: Honor code

The Pacific

Outcomes: Industrial
Work: Egotistical
Morality: Spiritual
Conflict resolution: Legalistic

So from this, we can predict who will win both the popular vote and
the electoral college. To win a regional archetype, a candidate must
align with more qualities than their opponent. The one who wins the
most regions wins the electoral college. To win the popular vote, a
candidate must align with the generational qualities of the two
dominant generational archetypes — the Baby Boomers and Millennials,
who together are the largest generational cohorts in America today.

If we apply these labels to elections going back to 2008, we get an
accurate map of popular and Electoral Wins. We also see why the GOP’s
tone and behavior shifted over the past 8 years, as the Republicans
discovered that an egotistical, spiritual, honor code approach to
politics was activating millions of voters who rarely saw a politician
who approached the world like them.

It also explains Hillary’s defeat: her industrial campaign failed to
resonate with 3 of the 5 regions, and her dogmatic moral code, best
exemplified by her “Deplorable” comment, undermined her further.

Trump also discovered that millions of Americans live by honor codes,
not legal ones. When he called for people to be taken out on a
stretcher from his rallies, millions heard him loud and clear: any
insult must be avenged. This is the heart and soul of an honor code.
Previous Republican candidates had ignored honor-bound Americans:
Romney and McCain were both legalistic politicians. George W. Bush
did not; his “Dead or alive” posters for Osama bin Laden were aimed at
those who saw 9/11 not as a crime but as a humiliating insult.

Seeing Americans through regional and generational archetypes allows a
more flexible understanding of American voting behavior. Rather than
relying on pollster data which is growing unreliable, or on past
elections which only tell us what other people in the past did, voting
archetypes can help us see the make-up of the electorate as it is, and
what voters are looking for when they make their limited choices when
voting.

Which candidate would you rather have a beer with? Which archetype
are they? The chances are good you won’t want to spend time with a
politician who isn’t aligned with your archetype, regardless of their
party.