Exclusive: CNU political professor talks 2016 election results

Dr. Rachel Bitecofer of the CNU Wason Center for Public Policy. WAVY-TV 10 Photo
Dr. Rachel Bitecofer of the CNU Wason Center for Public Policy. WAVY-TV 10 Photo

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Billionaire businessman Donald Trump claimed a historic victory early Wednesday morning as the 45th President of the United States.

WAVY.com 2016 Election Coverage | Election Results

Trump’s Election Day victory may have caught some by surprise, as pre-election polls appeared to forecast a clear victory for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

President-elect Donald Trump smiles as he arrives to speak to an election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. From left, Trump, Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Tiffany Trump. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President-elect Donald Trump smiles as he arrives to speak to an election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. From left, Trump, Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Tiffany Trump. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Dr. Rachel Bitecofer is an assistant professor at the Christopher Newport University Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy. The Wason Center released a series of polls leading up to Election Day.

Like some national forecasts, CNU’s polling consistently showed Clinton with a lead among likely Virginia voters. Clinton did end up winning in Virginia, but lost in several key battleground states.

Trump claimed victory in the early hours of Wednesday after capturing the Electoral College — even though he trailed in the popular vote.

Speaking with 10 On Your Side Wednesday, Bitecofer says, “With the way America is laid out in the Electoral College, we have these high population densities, cities. But, ultimately, no matter how well you do in cities like that, you’re capped at the state’s Electoral College total.”

Bitecofer says the most recent example of a divide between the popular vote and the Electoral College is in the 2000 Presidential Election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

With some votes still being counted in a few states, Bitecofer says it is unclear whether or not Clinton will hang on to her advantage in the popular vote.

“We know it’s going to be a very close margin,” Bitecofer says. “When (President Barack) Obama won in 2012 — of course he also won the Electoral College — he also had a 5-million vote margin over his opponent (Mitt) Romney.”

Bitecofer added, “We’re going to be looking at an electorate that is clearly divided.”

Supporters watch election results during Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's election night rally in the Jacob Javits Center glass enclosed lobby in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Supporters watch election results during Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s election night rally in the Jacob Javits Center glass enclosed lobby in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Bitecofer says one of her assumptions with the 2016 outcome is that pre-election polling models over-estimated minority voter turnout — especially in large cities — and underestimated white working-class voter turnout in rural areas.

Locally, voters in Virginia Beach turned down a referendum to extend light rail from Norfolk to Town Center.

Will Sessoms, who has on record supported extending the Tide, was re-elected Tuesday as mayor of Virginia Beach.

“The light rail caught us a little bit by surprise,” Bitecofer said. “We had ran a survey in conjunction with The Virginian-Pilot, and our data revealed it would be a 50-50 split.

“To see it rejected so decisively was a little bit of a surprise, but again, it’s ultimately about which voters showed up in Virginia Beach on Election Day,” she added.