On election day, we launched a survey to find out who our readers actually voted for, and why. While the results of the election came as a shock, college women unsurprisingly supported the candidate with better qualifications and a far better record on women’s rights. We surveyed more than 840 women, and their answers make it clear that while Clinton may have lost the election, it wasn’t because of this group.
1. A large majority of college women voted for Hillary Clinton. And for many of them, this election was their first vote ever.
College women really came out for Hillary Clinton, with 71 percent casting their vote for her. Eighteen percent voted for Donald Trump, while 5 percent voted for Gary Johnson, and only 1 percent voted for Jill Stein. Trump got slightly more of the college women vote than had said they would vote for him in our other surveys. The highest he got was in our third pre-election survey, where 15 percent said they would vote for him. In the first and second pre-election surveys, when he was not yet the Republican nominee, he got three percent and seven percent respectively.
Over 96 percent of those who took the survey voted. This holds up pretty well when compared to our three pre-election surveys—in each survey, more than 90 percent of respondents said they planned to vote. Sixty-three percent of our readers cast their first vote in this election, and of those who were voting for the first time, 73 percent voted for Clinton.
2. They may not have originally wanted to vote for her, but they felt good about it in the end.
More than 60 percent of college women said they changed their mind about who to vote for during the election season—most because their favorite candidate dropped out. It's safe to say that most of these women were originally Bernie supporters, as he was the overwhelming favorite among our readers in our first two surveys. In the election day survey, more than 400 women said Clinton ended up being the candidate they voted for even though they supported a different candidate at the start of the campaign.
Overall, 72 percent of Clinton voters and 57 percent of Trump voters said they were happy with their vote—and not that they were just voting to stop the other candidate. This is a little different from our third pre-election survey, where 60 percent of Clinton supporters and 73 percent of Trump supporters said they felt like they were voting for the lesser of two evils. These two questions were worded a bit differently, but maybe the act of actually casting the vote was a better feeling than thinking about the vote ahead of time.
In open-ended answers about why they voted for Hillary Clinton, college women weren’t overly enthusiastic, but many thought Clinton’s policies just aligned better overall with their beliefs. A lot of them expressed the idea that compared to Trump, Clinton was the obvious choice because of her experience and record of upholding the rights of minorities and women. Many said they thought a Trump presidency would make them less safe.
3. Less than half voted in person on election day.
College women took advantage of ways to vote other than showing up in person on election day. Fourteen percent voted early, while 32 percent voted with absentee ballots and 8 percent used mail-in ballots. With so many students out of state for school, it makes sense that college women would use these other methods. Maybe this will eventually lead to even more millennial-friendly ways to vote—like more widespread and secure online voting.
4. Donald Trump’s history of sexual assault made a big impression on college women. Clinton’s emails had less of an effect.
When Trump’s 2005 Access Hollywood tape was published on The Washington Post in October, a lot of people thought it was a total game-changer. While the tape obviously didn’t stop Trump from getting elected, 54 percent of college women said the tape affected their vote—and 51 percent said the accusations of sexual assault against him also had an impact. These numbers are no surprise given that college women have been on the forefront of a movement to stop ignoring and normalizing sexual assault.
Clinton’s emails were seen as a similarly huge story, and the media lost its collective mind when FBI director James Comey announced that the bureau had found more emails of hers to look at just two weeks before the election. But only 23 percent of college women said the new emails affected their vote, while 27 percent said Clinton being cleared a second time had an impact. More women said the debates influenced their vote.
For some women though, both candidates were too scandal-ridden to be trustworthy. In open-ended answers about which issues affected their votes, several women said that they were turned off by both candidates and thought both the sexual assault accusations and the FBI investigation should be disqualifying.
This column was originally published on HerCampus.com on November 14, 2016.