The 2016 presidential race has been atypical to say the least. One of the biggest reasons for this is Trump - widely considered to be a pragmatic moderate businessman before this cycle - but now seen by many as a hardcore conservative. But what does the data say?
We analyzed the political contributions to candidates since their campaign announcements, as an objective way of determining how their ideological positions have changed during the course of the campaign so far. A shift to the right means the candidate has attracted more conservative donors than before. A shift to the left means the candidate has attracted more liberal donors. Research shows that Crowdpac's unique ideological rating system based on campaign contributions is the best way to predict how a candidate will behave in office.
When Donald Trump announced his candidacy, he was a moderate 0.6L, actually slightly more liberal than conservative. Based on donations this cycle, he is now a 4.9C - a stunning 5.5 points shift to the right. Other candidates have been more stable, Rand Paul being the most consistent, with no significant change to his score. All other candidates have remained within one point of their original score, with the exception of Ben Carson who, like Trump, has shifted to the right, but not nearly as much: 1.9 points. Bernie Sanders, who was already clearly the most liberal of the candidates, has shifted even further left by 0.8 points.
Of course, these shifts will be significantly influenced by primary season, when candidates have an incentive to polarize in the direction of their respective party bases, in order to cater to a partisan audience. Once the nomination is in the bag, it is quite possible that we'll see these scores shift back to the center, as candidates tone down their rhetoric to appeal to a wider audience. So for the most accurate prediction of how the next president will behave in office - come back and check the nominees' scores closer to the election!
To find out more about the candidates, check out our 2016 presidential election guide.