Q&A on the News

Q: George Packer was quoted in The New Yorker and The Atlantic that an estimated 8.5 million Americans voted for Obama (in 2012) and then voted for Trump in (2016). Can this number be verified, as this would be the electoral difference?

— Don White, Atlanta

A: Rasmussen Reports, a nonpartisan electronic media company that collects and distributes public opinion polling information, examined three sources in June to get an idea of how many voters backed Obama in 2012 and then voted for Trump in 2016.

While Rasmussen said exit polls at the time did not ask that question and self-reporting of past voting behavior is not always accurate, it was made “best data-informed guesses” based on results from those three sources.

Data from the American National Election Study found 13 percent of voters — or 8.4 million in raw numbers — who backed Trump in 2016 also voted for Obama in 2012. The Cooperative Congressional Election Study recorded a smaller number of Obama-Trump voters — 11 percent, or 6.7 million — and a University of Virginia Center for Politics/Public Opinion Strategies survey found 15 percent of 2012 Obama voters chose Trump in 2016, equaling 9.2 million.

That’s a wide range, Rasmussen said, but “nonetheless, these surveys offer additional evidence about a critical part of the 2016 equation: the millions of voters who switched from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. Given the extremely close margins in some states, particularly the Rust Belt trio of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, these voters played a crucial role in handing over the White House to the GOP.”

Fast Copy News Service wrote this column. Do you have a question? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).