Dr Stephen Quinlan's novel approach to analysing the 2016 US election

Dr Stephen Quinlan's novel approach to analysing the 2016 US election
Monday 18 March 2019

Losing candidates’ perceptions are usually not subject to academic analyses. However the surprising election of Donald Trump to the Presidency in 2016 calls for a comprehensive assessment of what motivated voters to opt for a controversial political novice rather than a provocative but experienced political veteran.

On 21 March 2019, ANU School of Politics and International Relations Visiting Fellow Dr Stephen Quinlan will present his novel exploration of the Trump victory through the prism of the defeated candidate – Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC).

The defeated candidate can 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, Dr Quinlan devised the Hillary Hypotheses, her rationale for her electoral defeat. Using the 2016 American National Election Study (ANES), the study provides the first systematic test of a losing candidate’s rationale for their defeat. The study suggests that more often than not, HRC’s assumptions are supported.

However, Dr Quinlan found 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. These 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 is a Senior Researcher at the GESIS Leibnix Institute for the Social Science in Mannheim Germany, and the project manager for the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) project.

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 is also an expert in the use of CSES data and has recently led the team responsible for the creation of CSES’ newest data product, the Integrated Module Dataset (IMD).

Dr Quinlan is visiting the ANU on an RSS Visiting Fellowship until the end of 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.


Updated:  18 March 2019/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications