Ward Boone and Johannes Huysmans, two students doing a Master in Business Communication, put the pieces of the puzzle together last summer. Analyses are pouring in now about why the Democrats lost, but both Flemish students had their homework done 3 months ago. De Morgen interviewed them.
"We were wondering a couple of months ago: how can you get this far (in the campaign) with such little political experience and by talking so much nonsense", Huysmans says. "In order to explain this, we didn't search the media channels, because these mostly explained why Trump wouldn't make it. Instead, we began our search in scientific literature."
Trump's "brand" was a lot stronger
Both students didn't really start from Trump's ideas, but from an analysis of the "brand personality" of Donald Trump compared to Hillary Clinton. "As we will argue, Trump has established a brand-like status, surpassing the capabilities of a mere celebrity or idol", they write in their thesis. In other words, Trump's brand was a lot stronger.
Among the literature they consulted, is Jonathan Haidt's 'The Righteous Mind'. About voters, he says that "intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second" in the book. Add this to the "brand" issue and you get a first indication.
The silent majority
The thing is that what are reading now in various analyses, was already available as knowledge through various channels months ago, for the occasion of the primaries. The thing was to put the puzzle together. And why were the polls so wrong? The silent majority is one aspect.
In the chapter "Demographics of Silent Majority" Huysmans and Boone write that "multiple media and polls have pointed out that blue-collar voters and those without a college degree are attracted by Trump’s populistic speeches and his opposition to illegal immigration, various free trade agreements that he believes are unfair, and most military interventionism" citing various sources such as Politico and NYT.
Wall Street Journal reported that the counties that have delivered the strongest vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 primary season tend to be rural communities that are struggling economically, with household incomes and college graduation rates below the national average.
Trump is also highly popular among Republican and leaning-Republican minority voters.
Clinton only has one strong point
Huysmans and Boone put Trump, with his "atypical and mostly non-political style aimed at change" and his voters "who are waking up from the American nightmare" against Clinton "who is supported by the political elite who wants relatively few changes since they are doing well."
The brand Clinton only has one strong point, they argue: her political experience. What will bother her the most, are the allegations of past scandals. Trump takes advantage of this with his "crooked Hillary" message.
Obama vs. Clinton, Trump vs. Romney
Check the figures, Huysmans told De Morgen. "Clinton got fewer votes from women than Barack Obama. And Trump attracted more votes from Hispanics and blacks then Mitt Romney. That says a lot."
It is simple: Clinton may seduce half of all American voters, but Trump voters were much more motivated to go out and vote. In this way, they made the difference in various swing states.