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Donald Trump has won a stunning surprise victory over his rival Hillary Clinton in the US presidential race. With the majority of opinion polls suggesting that the Democrats would claim a third straight election following Barack Obama’s successes in 2008 and 2012, Trump’s win has shocked most analysts and political insiders.
Trump’s key successes
The earliest indication on election night that things might not be going Clinton’s way came when the key battleground state of Florida was called for Trump by the major American news networks.
Polls ahead of the election had given the Democratic candidate a narrow lead in the state but Trump eventually claimed a 49.1% share of the vote against Clinton’s 47.7%.
Narrow wins for Trump in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as well as more solid victories in Ohio and Michigan – each of which had been won by Obama in 2012 – helped to clear his path to the White House.
Opinion polls throughout the campaign had generally given Clinton a lead, albeit one which varied considerably based on news events.
The day before the election, most leading analysts put the Democratic candidate around three percentage points ahead. Trump’s chances of victory were rated at between 5% and around 30%, with betting markets making him a 3-1 or 4-1 shot shortly before polls opened.
The failure of pollsters follows serious errors during the UK’s referendum on EU membership as well as in the British general election of 2015 and once again brings statisticians’ methods into question.
The FBI’s involvement
One of the biggest clouds hanging over Clinton throughout the campaign involved her use of a private email server during her time as Obama’s Secretary of State. Critics said this may have put national security at risk and she faced an FBI investigation as a result. Although officials announced in the summer that Clinton was to face no charges, FBI director James Comey sensationally announced 11 days before the election that his officers had discovered “new” emails related to the inquiry.
Despite stating that the messages had yet even to be read to see if they were relevant – in fact, the FBI revealed they were not last Friday – Comey’s intervention is thought to have had a significant impact on the election, with early voting already underway in many areas.
What remains to be seen is what the economic fallout of the vote will be. Early on Wednesday, stock markets in Asia and Europe suffered some falls but these were not long-lived. The dollar has, however, dipped in value against most currencies, with prospects of a US interest-rate rise next month now thought to have receded.
For British firms, a weaker dollar could mean their exports to various countries – not just the US – become more expensive again, while Trump’s stated policy of protectionism could mean higher tariffs on imports into America.
However, many of Trump’s economic policies have so far lacked detail so it remains to be seen exactly what impact his presidency may have on trade and global markets.
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