The Effect of Jill Stein Voters on the 2016 Election

Jill Stein

It may seem an odd time to take a deep dive into the results of the 2016 presidential election. After all, is there any doubt that Trump’s win was a fluke? Clinton’s loss was overdetermined. What this means is that there were multiple factors that went against her, but had any one of them gone differently, she would have won the presidency. And I am interested in one of those potential things: liberals who voted for Jill Stein rather than Clinton in the 3 critical states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.


In order to do this, I have to make assumptions. The main assumption that I am going to make is that the increase in Jill Stein voters from 2012 to 2016 were liberals who refused to vote for Clinton. Whether you want to see this as a result of Clinton being a horrible candidate or these voters being propagandized is up to you.

Personally, I go with the latter because I saw it happening. Many of my liberal (Sanders-supporting) friends would ask me about conspiracy theories that had been debunked in the 1990s. What’s more, in as much as Clinton was a bad candidate, it was due to her long history of facing these false and often bizarre stories. Note that these have culminated in Clinton supposedly now running a sex-trafficking ring.[1]

Another major assumption has to do with how I deal with the different number of voters in each state during the 2016 and 2012 elections. There are three approaches to this. Case A is to ignore this effect and go with the straight vote totals. Case B is to weight based on the total vote in the state. And case C is to weight based on the total Democratic vote in the state. I believe that Case C is the best.

Although this assumption has a notable effect, it does not affect the result of any of the three states. However, I will come back to this issue of non-voters.


I am only going to present the Case C results. This is simply because this article is already far too complicated for most people. But for those who want to check my work (which I would appreciate) or expand on it, there is a spreadsheet: Jill Stein 2016 Election. (In order to edit it, you will need to download it or — if you have a Google Drive account — make a copy.)

StateClinton Loss MarginExtra JS VotesAlt Clinton Margin

As you can see, Wisconsin and Michigan would have gone for Clinton if these extra Jill Stein voters had chosen to vote for the Democratic candidate as they appear to have done in 2012. But Pennsylvania would still have gone for Trump — albeit by a substantially smaller margin (33 percent).

Clearly, the Jill Stein voters alone were not enough of an effect to have flipped the election from Trump to Clinton. But there’s more to consider.

Democratic Non-Voters

Another thing that jumps out of the numbers is how many fewer people in these states voted for the Democratic Candidate in 2016 than in 2012. This is despite the fact that there were more total votes in each state. Also: Trump got substantially more votes than Romney in Michigan and Pennsylvania and barely less (0.02 percent) in Wisconsin.


Taken together, these numbers clearly show that the liberals who just couldn’t vote for Clinton based on right-wing propaganda (admittedly, often pitched with leftist reasons) cost Clinton the presidency.

What We Lost When Clinton Lost

In the process, we have a conservative Supreme court. What’s more, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies in the next 2 (Or 6!) years, it will become more conservative still. We have an immigration crisis we would not have. There are strained relationships with our traditional international partners. We have an emboldened North Korea and Russia. We have trade wars.

There is no doubt that if Hillary Clinton were president today, I would be complaining about her constantly. But wouldn’t it be a lot better to be complaining about Clinton than Trump? Wouldn’t the people of the United States, and almost certainly the world, be much better off with Clinton in the White House?

No Regrets!

And here’s the thing: I have no problem with actual leftists voting for whomever they want. But most of the people who refused to vote for Clinton were not leftists. Let’s be clear: if you voted for Obama in 2012 then you weren’t making an ideological stand by voting for Jill Stein in 2016. You had just bought into the right-wing propaganda fed to you.

The funny thing is that I know some conservatives who voted for Trump and now regret it. (That’s hardly surprising; conservatives seem always to be voting for people they quickly repudiate.) I don’t know any Jill Stein voters who have done the same thing.


The truth is, you either join the revolution or you don’t. And if you don’t, you’ve got to be practical about your vote. And the people who suddenly discovered Jill Stein in 2016 are not revolutionaries. They are just easily manipulated political amateurs.

What’s more, Jill Stein is no revolutionary. Real leftists are not very keen on the Green Party. It is the party of the faux-revolutionaries.

What About the Extra Libertarian Voters?

One could, of course, make the argument that the Libertarian voters should have voted for Trump. There are a few problems with this. First, a lot of those Libertarians voters would have voted for the Democrat, not the Republican. But I admit, most of them would have voted for the Republican. But those who just could not cast a vote for Trump were not basing their decision on propaganda. They were refusing to vote for Trump because they understood that he would govern just as he has.

Clinton and Obama are pretty much identical: girl/boy scouts who are center (American) left. Other than insanity or total ignorance (Ding, ding, ding!) there was no reason for liberals not to vote for her. And if that’s you, it’s not something you need to be ashamed of. Just note it, learn, and move on.

[1] Note in this article the picture of Obama supposedly playing ping pong at the pizzeria. No rational person could think that a pizzeria would have a very long hallway like that. You have to be convinced that a story is true to use such a thing as an indication much less proof. Of course, had Obama played ping-pong with a child that proves… What?!

Image cropped from Jill Stein by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

25 thoughts on “The Effect of Jill Stein Voters on the 2016 Election

  1. “But wouldn’t it be a lot better to be complaining about Clinton than Trump? Wouldn’t the people of the United States, and almost certainly the world, be much better off with Clinton in the White House?”

    Well, there’s a third branch of government to consider. If Clinton were president, there’s almost no chance the Congress would be in Democratic hands. Reps. might very well have a supermajority in the Senate tomorrow in that case. What’s worse, they’d probably hold onto their state level advantages, if not increase them, by 2020, meaning they’d be able to lock in their gerrymandering for the next decade. The fact that these quirks of the calendar have such a massive structural impact on the government is ridiculous, but it’s the way it is.

    • Well, there’s a few things going on, here. One is the deranged sexism against Hillary because she said she wouldn’t bake cookies. The right has never stopped harping on that, how she’s some vitriolic anti-motherhood & apple pie extremist. Nonsense, to be sure, but it’s not exactly easy to displace a media mantra.

      Then there’s the real issue, that Republicans run on barely disguised fascism, while Democrats run on a token commitment to the poor. If Republicans double down on fascism, it’s what people expect. When Democrats double down on accepting huge speaking fees from investment firms, while deriding idealists, it can make potential voters lose enthusiasm for giving a dang.

      Few co-workers I knew in 2016 loved Trump. Quite a few had voted for Obama, and saw no material change in their lives. (The only major thing Obama pushed for was, essentially, a health-insurance corporate bailout.)

      I talked to quite a few people who said “why vote, it won’t make any difference.” They we’re wrong… but were they that far wrong? There’s simply not a lot “centrist” Democrats have to throw out, there. “Less bad” isn’t a solid reason to infuriate your boss by asking for Tuesday off.

      • I think it does make a difference. People have a hard time seeing bad things that don’t happen. Regardless, there is the issue of altruism. Part of my vote is for me personally but a larger share of it is for those people I know will be hurt if I don’t make the right decision.

        I understanding you are talking about why people vote a particular way. But looking back, it does seem that the resentment was all about the cookies. I don’t mean that literally. I’m talking about all the garbage of the 1990s that came out in best-sellers of the Conservative Book Club. And it was extremely sad to see a lot of my fellow leftists parroting back many of these same ridiculous stories that were disproven long ago. I hope we don’t see that sort of thing again. But none of this should be too surprising when a major American political party nominates a con man for president: people got conned.

        • @Frank — How Republican candidates might harm other people is THE supreme argument for convincing disillusioned liberals to vote Democratic. I’ve used it for decades. Not always successfullly, I’m afraid.

          There’s a bit in one of Robert Reich’s movies, where he’s trying to unionize some geothermal energy plant workers in Utah. One guy will have none of it; he insists he’s stupid, the plant owners are smart, they deserve to be rich, he deserves to be treated like shit. It’s heartbreaking.

          (This being a skilled expert at extracting energy from the Earth’s crust, in a specific location where the Earth decided to, literally, blow off steam. It’s not like the company can outsource this site to Panama, or get away with hiring ignoramus-types like me; I’d make a mistake and blow the building up. That’d lower the profit margin, just a bit.)

          I’ve run into this so many times, and I’m afraid I can’t blame it all on evil Republicans. If you’re not in computer tech or finance, the Democratic Party leadership has spent 30 years telling you you’re outdated. Friends and family in tech or finance will tell you what a loser you are.

          Quite a few workers internalize this bullshit, and come to the conclusion that voting means nothing. Why bother? Republicans sell a brand of hate most people find distasteful; Democrats tell you that you specialized in the wrong field and are probably an ignorant bigot if you never became sophisticatedly rich.

          Voting because it helps others is the best argument to reach these non-voters. But it gets harder, every year, to convince these people that Democratic politicians give a shit. And Hillary, Kerry, Gore, they all seemed like that twerp from HR who apologizes for ruining your life while offering you a scented candle.

          • I agree. And there is no doubt that the DP started to go off the rails in the early 70s when they focused on “clean government” — as though voters care much about that. And the DP abandoned blue-collar workers at that time. And then, under the New Democrats, they abandoned the poor. Eventually, the party became little more than a socially liberal party. And this was just bad politics. I’ve long maintained that the New Democrats were the fundamental cause of the Republicans becoming postmodern fascists. The DP just didn’t give them enough room on the right to have any economic policy.

            In general, I try to bring people together. But at the same time, I feel under constant attack by both the mainstream Democrats and the Bernie Sanders Democrats. And I find it especially annoying because I’m further to the left than the vast majority of Sanders Democrats! Of course, as is my nature, I complain more about my “side.” I want us to be smart. And I don’t like seeing revolution become a brand.

            I’m still grappling with the idea of violence. But it doesn’t seem to me that there is any way we bring on socialism from within a capitalist system. The idea that we can vote in socialism is absurd. When countries do vote-in actual socialists, the US freaks out, but the countries remain capitalist. The winners of capitalism are not going to hand over their ill-gotten gains voluntarily.

            But your approach is right. I’m fine. Trump hasn’t negatively affected me. But he has millions of others. And that’s what we have to remember. What’s more important: your political theorizing or two dead children that our policy on the southern border created?

      • Let’s not give the right ALL of the credit for that cookie baking foofaraw, hmm? Hillary’s no doubt scripted remark was made in the context of accusations (by rival Dem Jerry Brown) about corruption involving Bill’s campaign finances and Hillary’s law firm. It was a very effective effort to change the topic of conversation from corruption to sexism and to portray Hillary as a victim rather than a perp. The media lapped it up of course. Gee whiz, something about that whole scenario just seems so familar… can’t quite place it…

        I could say something about old female dogs never learning new tricks, but that would be a cheap shot, wouldn’t it? Although not incorrect…

        • @paintedjaguar — Fair enough. Although if you meant “bitch” by typing “female dog,” you should just say it.

          I happen to think Clinton was nowhere near enough of a bitch. I remember watching that debate where Trump skulked around behind and screaming at the TV, “just turn around and tell him to quit it!” Later, she said that was her first instinct, but she froze because doing so might come across as, essentially, too bitchy. The Clintons, in a nutshell. Be liberal but not too liberal.

          And people wonder why fascists keep winning, all over the world. Well, in my experience, I can convince a person or two to hold their nose and vote for “not so awful.” But it gets harder every time.

          My apartment building in 2016, it was right across the street from our polling place. Literally, a ten second walk. And I would go on and on about why voting is important. In Minnesota, you can vote with a utility bill proving your address. Nobody wanted to hear it or remotely cared. What bothered them was the shitty absentee landlord, who didn’t fix drafty windows. (It can get a mite cold up in here, and if your storm windows date back to 1912, that’s a problem.)

          Since the building was almost entirely Black, I didn’t see any MAGA hats. But I didn’t sense a ton of enthusiasm for Hillary, either. Clinton isn’t getting the fucking landlord to fix the fucking windows. Might build a bridge to the 21st century though, or some such shit.

          • There’s another aspect of this. The way the media would portray Clinton acting differently would be the same. It’s like when people say to me, “If only she hadn’t had that private email server…” What? If it hadn’t been that, the media would have obsessed over some other bullshit story. It really didn’t matter. Trump hacked the media system. By having so many scandals, the media was not able to push a single scandal. (I think that will change in 2020 when the narrative will be “this is a corrupt guy.”) But in the name of “fairness,” the media would always pick apart something that Clinton had done. How about her high paying speeches? Does anyone doubt that couldn’t have driven coverage for a year? How about Benghazi? How about her Parkinson’s disease?

        • “I could say something about old female dogs never learning new tricks, but that would be a cheap shot, wouldn’t it? Although not incorrect…”

          WTF?! Really?! It’s comments like this that make me think that those who couldn’t “choose” between Trump and Clinton just had some kind of Conservative Book Club generated hatred of Clinton. You undercut any other arguments you make with nonsense like this.

          • Yes, really. Nonsense how exactly? I admit that the opportunity for wordplay (and perhaps the indications of another run in 2020) tempted me into using an epithet I usually forego – I was being snide. But I’ll stand by the substance of it nonetheless. One only has to observe Hillary’s public history to discern a pattern of behaviour that has not changed much over the years. So no new tricks. And watching her public appearances, it’s hard not to conclude that she is quite unpleasant personally, often in a “mean girls” sort of way that is more frequent from women than from men. So I do think Hillary merits the appellation “bitch”, if anyone does, though I don’t think that in itself is terribly important.

            What sympathy I once felt for Hillary due to right wing attacks on the Clintons has long since been eclipsed by Bill & Hill’s own actions. And the implication that I’m incapable of forming my own opinions is irritating. My own disdain for Hillary originated from watching her speech introducing the output of her secretive “Clintoncare” working group. The reek of smugness and dishonesty… well. Pretty much what I had felt when watching her husband campaign in the primaries. If ever a couple deserved each other…

            Re Frank’s remark @ 12:00 pm:
            You seem to be saying that Hillary’s multiple vulnerabilities doomed her to “death by media” but that Trump’s own multiple vulnerabilities allowed him to successfully “hack the media”. Really? Also you must be aware that part of Trump’s media access was apparently due to a deliberate strategy among Clinton allies to promote Trump (and other “extreme” candidates) because he was considered to be more beatable than say Jeb Bush. By the way, I strongly disagree that Hillary’s avoidance of FOIA, her money grubbing, and her proven duplicity were just peccadillos that the media should have ignored.

            For whatever reason, you seem dedicated to the proposition that Hillary was an acceptable candidate. Unfortunately there is every indication that she plans to try again in 2020.

    • Okay. But we wouldn’t have more than 100 radically conservative judges on the federal courts. We would have a moderate majority on the Supreme Court. And I find it hard to believe that the Republicans would have picked up another 15 Senate seats in 2018. As for 2020, that’s not what happened in 2012.

      It’s also, of course, possible that Clinton would have started World War III. But I think the safe bet was always on Clinton.

  2. “Other than insanity or total ignorance (Ding, ding, ding!) there was no reason for liberals not to vote for her.”

    Well, the fact that so many Dems insist on this position will probably ensure another term for Trump. Like some others, I believed the stranglehold of the Clintonite/ThirdWay factions to be more damaging in the long term than another Republican term and I still don’t see anything unique about Trump beyond his level of boorishness. The Republican history of anti-Clinton propaganda (some of which is even factual) has been overshadowed by the post election shitstorm of neo-McCathyism from the Dems and their allies. I’ve never seen this degree of blatant media and institutional involvement except perhaps during the Iraq run-up or after 9-11. I’m afraid it indicates just how bad things have become under the Lesser Evil regimen of the last few decades.

    • I don’t mean to offend you, but I’ve always found this a privileged argument. Trump’s particular problems haven’t directly affected me. But they have a lot of other people. But even if I grant you that he is just a generic Republican, do you really think the radicalization of the federal judiciary doesn’t matter? Suppose we do get a socialist government. And suppose it is stopped from doing anything important by the courts? Certainly, there would be some remedies in this utopian scenario. But in practical scenarios like it, there wouldn’t be. Look at the problems FDR had with minor changes. And the Federalist Society justices of today mostly think that his policies are unconstitutional.

      • “I’ve always found this a privileged argument”

        I feel the same about the Lesser Evil argument, Frank. But that’s neither here nor there. There’s never a good time to change the status quo.

        • I wouldn’t have a problem if it were changing the status quo in the right direction. Is this like libertarian progress where things get worse and worse until suddenly everything is wonderful?

          And I don’t see how the Lesser Evil argument is privileged.

        • All right, I’ll be more explicit. To some of us, and lacking a positive alternative, 2016 boiled down to keeping the Clintonite faction away from increasing their power and access to patronage. Do you really think even token efforts to reform the Dems would still be happening if the Clintons were again sitting in the White House? In the long term, avoiding that outcome WAS the right direction, at least arguably. I repeat, in the long term.

          As to the privilege of Lesser Evilism: if one is doing well or even getting by under the current regime, one is unlikely to support overturning the apple cart, even if one knows that a lot of the apples are wormy. Not getting more rotten, wormy apples than one can tolerate – that’s a form of privilege, at least according to the way “privilege” is being used in current discourse (a topic for another time). As James implied, there’s also a day for most of us when one may be triggered into a non-calculated choice regardless of consequences, aka “fed up” or “can’t afford to wait”. Of course you may not agree on the best actions, but how is any of this difficult to understand?

          “Is this like libertarian progress where things get worse and worse until suddenly everything is wonderful?”
          Nope, although part of the reason we can’t get honest healthcare reform (for instance) stems from the fact that enough of the populace is semi-covered that they are afraid of radical change. The Dems have managed to stave off effective reform for years by proposing flawed half-measures and what positive change we’ve seen in public sentiment seems to be the result of increasing immiseration rather than better philosophy. I wish that wasn’t so.

  3. I was thinking about this — how any rational person could possibly help elect Republicans, either by not voting or voting third party in a swing state. (If you live in California and want to vote Jill Stein, go with God.) I’m no fan of the current Democratic Party, but I hold my nose and vote for it, because the alternative is worse.

    And then, watching some Scorsese gangster movie on Netflix, it hit me; it’s a protection racket.

    “C’mon, I’m your friend, here. I help sponsor your kid’s Little League team. Do you want Vinnie to come around? You know who he is. You heard about that thing on 20th Street, you don’t want that. Not that I had anything to do with it, I’m just sayin’.”

    You’ll pay the gangster. But you won’t like him.

    Essentially, Democrats have been doing this for decades. Corporations run everything and ruin everything, not much we can do about it. You don’t want Vinnie up in here. And we paid for some kids’ baseball uniforms / somewhat slowed the rise in health insurance premiums. Aren’t you grateful? Show some respect!

    Eventually, some store owners will say “fine. Send Vinnie.” It’s not the smart move. But you can only push people so far before they get sick of it.

    And then how Hillary defined herself as the most famous cuckold in recent American history. He Done Me Wrong. (Very much like Bill’s “I feel your pain.” Those two were made for each other.) You’re a grown-ass adult with a law degree and thick corporate resume. DTMFA, as Dan Savage would say. Mrs. James, who also voted Democrat and recruited as many other voters as she could, had a real problem with this, and said lots of wives she talked to did as well.

    Compromise every principle you have for power? Fine, all major political figures on the national scale do that. But don’t expect me to love you for it. I’ll hand over the vig. And that’s all.

    Plus, it didn’t help that Hillary had almost precisely no sense of humor. At least Obama was genuinely funny at times. It’s hard to imagine Hillary or Gore or Kerry having an anger translator.

    • But there is a major difference. We have a primary where we can vote for anyone. (I know many Sanders supporters think the election was stolen from him, but that’s not true when you look at the numbers.) Certainly, the nomination process could be better. But the 2016 primary did move the party to the left.

      The bigger issue is what you mentioned before: it isn’t “Send Vinnie.” It is “Send Vinnie to kill the most vulnerable people in the country.” I understand it. But I’m going to call it out.

      • Well, the primary thing is different, you’re correct. And no, it wasn’t stolen from Sanders (although I believe a state or two was, those wouldn’t have made enough difference).

        While the party might be more liberal now (good!), the press is another matter. I really fear going back to the Dark Ages where there’s only one leftist running (usually Dennis Kucinich) and the media declares that person “unelectable.”

        • Party politics are hard. And this is one of the reasons I wish we had a parliamentary system. This is not a problem that even ranked choice fixes, although it does make it easier for a third party to destroy one of the two primary parties. There were definitely some things that went on in the primary that I didn’t like. And I don’t understand why. I saw in Feb 2016 that Sanders couldn’t win. Why were some Democratic insiders worried?

          As for the press, I’m coming to see that we have the worst that isn’t actively controlled by a government. It acts pretty much the same way that the policing system does: to enforce the status quo. And when the status quo of a country has become as bad as ours this is an extremely frightening thing. I am greatly concerned about the viability of our government. It now works primarily to benefit the power elite. It’s much worse under Republicans but it’s still true under Democrats. Under Democrats, I figure we survive for a century; under Republicans, maybe a generation — maybe.

          • And now I see the TV networks will give Oafus-One time on Tuesday to sell his wall bullshit. No doubt they will all claim this is newsworthy coverage, although naturally the real reason is to draw a viewer or two from Fox. To be followed, most likely, by the usual assortment grading His performance….

            Madness. Absolute insanity. You didn’t specify what species we might last a generation’s worth of; it could be veering into unusually long-lived plankton territory at this rate.

            • It’s an outrage. See Matt Yglesias’ article, Networks Giving Trump Free Airtime on Tuesday Refused to Air Obama’s 2014 Immigration Speech.

              I’m not sure what the other part was referring to. Was I saying that humans will go extinct? It’s funny that most people believe we will live on forever — like in Star Trek. Americans also overwhelmingly think that America will live on despite all the evidence that it is well into decline. In my lifetime we will have a president who makes Trump look good.

              • “Under Democrats, I figure we survive for a century; under Republicans, maybe a generation — maybe.”

                There’s the survival of modern civilization as we know it (probably doomed), and the survival of all complex life on Earth (50/50, but as a betting man, I’m putting the “over” on algae). Just the decline in insects alone is terrifying; um, they do play kinda a huge role in our rather slightly important “food” thing.

                As a nation, old America is toast, it’s burnt, stick a fork in it. If you want to be hopeful, though, that’s not necessarily a bad outcome. If we could get over the whole “military/economic overlords greater than Kubla Khan” deal, we might arrive at someplace somewhat decent.

                Like the excellent Rick Perlstein said, it’d be a shame if America went from adolescence to senility without ever experiencing adulthood.

                • That’s a great quote!

                  I remember in grad school, my group did a lot of work with methane emissions from termites. So one day we did a back-of-the-envelope calculation of how much biomass there was in termites. We calculated that it was 3,000 times as much as human biomass. I saw a good calculate later and we were way off (I can’t remember which way). But the point is that in terms of biomass, this is the age of insects. Animals at the top of the food chain are always the most vulnerable. Humans don’t think about this enough.

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