The Hillary Hypotheses: Testing Candidate Views of Loss

The Hillary Hypotheses: Testing Candidate Views of Loss

The surprising election of Donald Trump to the Presidency calls for a comprehensive assessment of what motivated voters to opt for a controversial political novice rather than a provocative but experienced political veteran. Our study provides a novel exploration of the Trump victory through the prism of the defeated candidate – Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC). Losing candidates’ perceptions are usually not subject to academic analyses. Nevertheless, these people often hold substantial sway in their parties and thus understanding their views on the loss is essential, especially as a party regroups after defeat. Using HRC's memoir What Happened, we devise the Hillary Hypotheses, her rationale for her electoral defeat. Using the 2016 American National Election Study (ANES), we provide the first systematic test of a losing candidate’s rationale for their defeat. We show that more often than not, HRC’s assumptions are supported. However, we find little evidence to support HRC's most crucial assertion, namely that the e-mail scandal and specifically James Comey's intervention ten days before Election day cost her the Presidency. Our findings have implications for understanding why Donald Trump won, but more broadly they explore an understudied aspect of elections – the meaning of a defeated candidate's views.

About the presenter:


Dr. Stephen Quinlan (PhD, University College Dublin) is Senior Researcher at the GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Mannheim, Germany and Project Manager for the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) project, in which capacity he serves on the project’s governing board, the CSES Planning Committee. His research focuses on comparative electoral behaviour and public opinion including turnout, elections, referendums, and social media’s impact on politics, with his research published in peer-reviewed journals such as Information Communication and Society, Electoral Studies, Politics and Governance, and Irish Political Studies.

Dr. Quinlan has been a Visiting Scholar at the Canada Research Chair in Electoral Studies at the University of Montreal (Fall 2011) and Stanford University (Fall 2015). He also serves as Editor of the annual Irish Eurobarometer Report for the European Commission and has previously consulted for Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE for its election coverage. He is visiting the ANU on an RSS Visiting Fellowship between February and March 2019 and is working with Prof. Ian McAllister in the School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR) on projects related to political leaders’ impact on voting behaviour and measuring turnout via surveys.

Date & time

Thu 21 Mar 2019, 12–2pm


LJ Hume Centre, Copland Building, ANU


Stephen Quinlan


Feodor Snagovsky


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