One of the more common refrains during America's nearly ever-present campaign season is that this election, this year, is the most important of our lives. We documented this in July, noting that it was first used in one form or another back in 1856, but has been common since at least 1980. Why is each election most important? Well, that's often a bit more nebulous.
According to a new survey from PRRI and The Atlantic, we can describe one way in which voters in 2016 felt this was the most important election in history. Forty-one percent of respondents - including two-thirds of those who voted for Donald Trump - felt that the 2016 election was critical because it was our last chance to "stop America's decline."
The fraction of Hillary Clinton voters who agreed with that sentiment was much smaller, at only a fifth.
Trump himself positioned this election as a final opportunity for his party, at one point telling the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody that 2016 was "the last election that the Republicans have a chance of winning." The idea of decline clearly also overlaps with the motto embroidered into his hats. America was once great; it no longer is; Trump will reverse that. The decline will stop.
Responses to the question also correlate to age and economic status. Older Americans were more likely to agree with the sentiment, as were members of the white working class.
The net result of the election is that those voters who were worried about the decline of the United States are now among the most optimistic about the next four years. About 28 percent of Americans think the quality of life in their local communities will improve under Trump - but more than half of members of the white working class who voted for Trump think that it will. In other words, for now at least, Trump's core base of support felt that this was an unusually important election - and that the results stopped what they perceived as the worst-case scenario.
Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Philip Bump