What I kept returning to, though, was the surprise of it all.
Polling’s long arm, we were promised, could reach farther than any reporter into the brambles of American politics and retrieve what was difficult to see from the outside: the hidden proclivities and preoccupations of demographic groups. Political science, in turn, was meant to act as a killjoy, a gulp of dusty academic air amid the breathlessness of campaign news cycles.
But for months political obsessives doubted poll numbers with the strength of a thousand Thomases. The numbers said one thing, but common sense indicated otherwise. Political scientists had no perfect historical precedent to call upon. Reporters, meanwhile, had only the piecemeal musings of the voters they happened to accost at rallies and coffee shops, nothing to suggest that a new paradigm was being formed.
Now Trump is the likely Republican nominee for president.
Given the limitations of statistical analysis, political science and traditional reporting, I reasoned that a hybrid approach using all three could help answer the prevailing question in American politics: Why Donald Trump?
The next step after treating Trump as you'd treat any other presidential candidate is treating his supporters are you'd treat any other candidate's supporters. Pointing out the 'Heil Hitler' tattoos on a few of their hands will not suffice.