The Veterans Factor: Will They Tip This Election?

Census data is a trove of information. Put bits and pieces together and you create profiles, understand this nation’s needs and develop strategies for electoral politics. Take the veterans of the armed forces – they represent every state in the union, all genders, orientations, colors, incomes, emotional and physical states, religious beliefs and a high proportion of voting age citizens. Twenty million citizens of the U.S. are veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

There is also an intangible characteristic resulting from their actual service.

They have made a commitment to this country. Unlike their non-serving peers, duty to country carries a tangible experience; it is not some bloviating call to patriotism. There’s no way to fake one’s sacrifice or the sacrifice of their families.

Nevertheless, not all veterans perceive politics, policies and politicians through the same lens. What can be said without qualification though is this – veterans are not naive. Innocence is no longer a guiding force.

How might this bedrock of reality and the across-the-board representation affect the current presidential election?

We can start to answer this question by looking at the states with high veteran populations and coordinate these with current poll numbers. Is there any kind of correlation? Do large veteran citizens coordinate with pro-Clinton or pro-Trump numbers?

Let’s take a look, using the 2015 U.S. Census data as our source. Here’s a rundown of each state and its veteran population.

  1. ALABAMA 376,525
  2. ALASKA – 70,370
  3. ARKANSAS – 229,261
  4. CALIFORNIA – 1,840,366
  5. COLORADO – 395,007
  6. CONNECTICUT – 209,882
  7. DELAWARE – 73,443
  8. FLORIDA1,538,636
  9. GEORGIA681,840
  10. HAWAII -112,217
  11. IDAHO – 121,172
  12. ILLINOIS699,522
  13. INDIANA – 441,925
  14. IOWA – 219,006
  15. KANSAS -204,538
  16. KENTUCKY – 303,167
  17. LOUISIANA – 293,317
  18. MARYLAND – 416,027
  19. MASSACHUSETTS – 368,593
  20. MICHIGAN648,273
  21. MISSOURI – 466,762
  22. MISSISSIPPI – 192,952
  23. MONTANA – 91,956
  24. NEW YORK868,764
  25. OHIO834,358
  26. OREGON – 313,261
  27. MAINE – 122,910
  28. MINNESOTA – 355,366
  29. NEBRASKA – 137,392
  30. NEVADA – 224,232
  31. NEW HAMPSHIRE – 109,398
  32. NEW MEXICO – 170,321
  33. NEW JERSEY – 416,037
  34. NORTH CAROLINA709,471
  35. NORTH DAKOTA – 52,035
  36. OKLAHOMA – 304,035
  37. OREGON – 313,261
  38. PENNSYLVANIA906,384
  39. RHODE ISLAND – 68,506
  40. SOUTH CAROLINA – 385,471
  41. SOUTH DAKOTA – 66,223
  42. TENNESSEE – 471,819
  43. TEXAS1,564,501
  44. UTAH – 140,942
  45. VERMONT – 46,355
  46. VIRGINIA718,034
  47. WASHINGTON 575,746
  48. WEST VIRGINIA – 155,150
  49. WISCONSIN – 395,931
  50. WYOMING – 49,465
Source: Census Data: Veterans, 2010-2014 

There are a dozen states with characteristics of high veteran populations (500,000 or more).

  1. California – 1.840,366
  2. Texas – 1,564,501
  3. Florida – 1,538,636
  4. Pennsylvania – 906,384
  5. New York – 868,764
  6. Ohio – 834,358
  7. Virginia – 718,034
  8. North Carolina – 709,471
  9. Illinois – 699,522
  10. Georgia – 681,840
  11. Michigan – 648,273
  12. Washington – 575,746


How do these 12 states correlate in terms of partisanship? Two recognized entities in the universe of political predictions can help answer that question: Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight and 270 To Win.

270 To Win Forecasts

Of these top veteran-heavy states, Clinton is polling strong in California (54%), Washington (53%), New York (50%) and Illinois (50%). She maintains single-digit leads in Virginia (48%), Pennsylvania (47%), Florida (46%), and Michigan (45%).

Trump is carrying Ohio (46%), Georgia (46%) and Texas (43%) with single-digit leads.

Clinton and Trump are tied in North Carolina with 45% each countered by a 10% third party preference.

These poll figures from 270 To Win include third party choices and include aggregate data from more than a dozen polls. Individual polls can be found here.

Nate Silver’s 538 Forecasts

As explained in his 9-26 Election Update, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight notes that the volatility of this election causes him to give Trump “somewhat better odds… than most other forecast models.”

In other words, FiveThirtyEight is playing it safe, though Silver still has Clinton ahead and winning by an ultra thin margin (51.5% – 48,5%).

In keeping with his cautious approach, 538 differs from 270 To Win in current state projections. One of the most dramatic differences is Florida, where 538 gives Trump a 58.8% chance of winning. The current tie in North Carolina is erased with a win for Trump. Likewise, 538 forecasts Trump wins in Texas, Ohio and Georgia.

Silver’s current projections show solid victories for Clinton in California, Washington, New York, Illinois, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Michigan.


Nate Silver’s 538 site provided projections within minutes of beginning this post. He sees Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina as key tipping states in that order.


The margin of a win/loss in any one of these battleground states could affect the outcome of the General Election, resulting in a Clinton or Trump victory. Nate Silver’s detailed analysis weaves in a number of factors other than poll data. The projection above is a snapshot in time – not a static view. He promises to update those figures daily through 8 November.

According to 270 To Win, seven of the dozen states identified with veteran voters will be battleground states (FL, GA, NC, VA, PA, OH, MI), liable to swing for either the Republican or Democratic candidate. This projection is based on less recent state-by-state polling as of 13 September 2016.

Click the map to create your own at


The numbers are meaningless. The numbers are everything. No one is placing huge bets on either candidate in the 2016 election. We are in a strange land, where precedence is overtaken by strange variables. Earth-shattering news goes by the wayside while muckraking and gossip make headlines. First-time voters are in revolt against a system that gave job security to their parents, Social Security to their grandparents, and the absence of a draft for themselves. Hate is digitized. Pariahs have come out of hiding. Lies by the Republican nominee are counted on a daily and hourly basis by journalists. Military leaders and high profile members of the intelligence community shun Trump and endorse Clinton. Foreign connections to Russia are flushed out of the Trump campaign. The GOP Congress maintains a suspect silence while the President and every leading Democratic member of Congress goes to bat for Clinton.

Amid this brouhaha, what are 20 million vets thinking?

Are they recalling how Donald Trump belittled Sen. John McCain? Will they consider his wild claim he’d shoot Iranian war boats “out of the water” for throwing birds at U.S. personnel or “bomb the s— out of ISIS” or give nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia or bomb Iran and “take the oil,” or his own obsession with nuclear war dating back for 16 years?

I would bomb the s— out of ’em. I would just bomb those suckers. That’s right. I’d blow up the pipes. … I’d blow up every single inch. There would be nothing left.

Will veterans wonder about the fitness of a Commander-in-Chief who refused, repeatedly to dismiss the possibility of using nuclear weapons in the Middle East and Europe? How much confidence could they place in a man who is oblivious to the reality of the nuclear triad? And what about his disgraceful remarks to a Gold Star family?

A huge percentage of our twenty million vets are dispersed among the top battleground states. If even ten percent voted, they could shift the election.

As one person among 300 million U.S. citizens, I am grateful for these 20 million veterans. My hope is that they will individually and collectively do the right thing and continue to protect the people and interests of this country.


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