How apathetic voters helped win Trump the election

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In a highly-polarized political climate, it's likely no surprise that exit polls show only 2 percent of the electorate had a favorable view of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on Election Day.

What's more shocking, though, is exit polls show majority of voters with an unfavorable opinion of both major candidates sided with Trump over Clinton. In key battleground states, this boost from "neither" voters was enough to win Trump the election.

RELATED: Donald Trump's life leading up to the election

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Donald Trump's life leading up to the election
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Donald Trump's life leading up to the election

Bound for the rigors of business school in the future, Donald Trump received discipline at an early age by attending a military academy. There, he reportedly excelled in extracurricular activities such as being the Honor Cadet.

Donald Trump in the New York Military Academy's 1964 yearbook

Source: Classmates

As someone who loves the art of negotiation, Donald Trump was able to negotiate New York City to provide a 40-year tax abatement for the Grand Hyatt Hotel — the first ever granted to a commercial property.

(Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Master renovator: Trump offered to renovate decrepit areas in need, such as a long-closed ice-skating rink, at no profit to himself, after the city's renovation effort went through five years of delays and more than double the original cost estimate.

(Photo by Michael Schwartz / (c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)

Trump's enterprise also stretched out into sports, where he was the original owner of the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - CIRCA 1983: Team Owner Donald Trump announces he has signed Herschel Walker to play running back for the New Jersey Generals in New Jersey. Walker played for the General form 1983-85.

(Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)

Trump owns a fleet of luxury helicopters.

Donald Trump, real estate mogul, entrepreneur, and billionare, utilizes his personal helicopter to get around on August 1987 in New York City.

(Photo by Joe McNally/Getty Images)
Trump was also notorious for befriending attractive supermodels. His first wife, Ivana, a Czech-American, was a member of the social elite.

Ivana Trump and Donald Trump are seen in December 1982 in New York City.

(Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)
No expense was spared for his belongings, as Donald Trump once paid the sultan of Brunei $30 million for a nearly 300-foot yacht.

American businessman Donald Trump and his wife Ivana sit at a table on board their luxury yacht The Trump Princess, anchored outside the Water Club, New York City, July 1988.

(Photo by Tom Gates/Getty Images)
To test the political waters, the potential Reform Party presidential candidate traveled to several areas to address party leaders.

New York real estate developer Donald Trump (L) answers questions as Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura looks on in Brooklyn Park, January 7. Trump said on Friday he "very well might" make a run for president under the Reform Party banner but had not made a final decision. "I'm looking very seriously if I can win," he told reporters. "And if I can win, I believe I can do a very good job." Trump came to Minnesota to raise money for the party's highest elected official, Governor Ventura, who made it clear that he and the New York developer were on the same wavelength.

(STR New / Reuters)

Trump also enjoys tennis — he even played a round, wearing his traditional suit, against the legendary Serena Williams.

Developer Donald Trump talks with his former wife Ivana Trump during the men's final at the U.S. Open September 7, 1997. REUTERS/File Photo 

He also became the owner of the infamous Miss Universe beauty pageant for many years.

Donald Trump and Miss Connecticut USA Erin Brady poses onstage after winning the 2013 Miss USA pageant at PH Live at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on June 16, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

(Photo by Michael Stewart/WireImage)

Unbeknownst to many, Donald Trump is a formidable opponent on the green. He owns 15 golf courses.

Donald Trump announced on Saturday, 11/9/02 a major addition to his West Coast properties as he purchased the Ocean Trails Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes. He discussed the improvements and additions to the club to members of the Rancho Palos Verdes community on Saturday morning. Ocean Trails made headlines in 1999 when days before its scheduled opening, part of the course's 18th hole slid into the Pacific Ocean. The club will reopen in June, 2003 under Trump's direction. 

(Photo by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Sometimes, negotiating can be a tough sport. What better way to exert your dominance by taking the center stage among the world's most bombastic figures?

Donald Trump, Stone Cold Steve Austin and WWE wrestler Bobby Lashley get ready to shave Vince McMahon's head after McMahons lost the main event of the night, 'Hair vs. Hair', between Vince McMahon and Donald Trump. WrestleMania 23 at Detroit's Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan on April 1, 2007.

(Photo by Leon Halip/WireImage)

As the fog of the political battlefield has cleared on the Republican side, Trump is now preparing for a likely battle with presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump (C), flanked by his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., addresses the media in Chicago May 10, 2006. Trump was in Chicago to speak about his Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago that is being built on the old site of the Chicago Sun-Times building on the north side of the Chicago River.

(REUTERS/Stephen J. Carrera)

Being the entertaining host, Trump also spared no expense in providing a spectacular show for friends and family.

 Developer and multi-millionaire Donald Trump (R) watches as ex-wife Marla Maples gets a kiss from Earl Sinclair of TV's 'Dinosaurs' during lunch at the Trump Plaza Hotel November 2, 1992. REUTERS/Henry Ray Abrams

As a self-proclaimed family man, Trump attended many public events and television shows with his family, even before his current campaign.

 Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump attend U.S. Open Tennis Tournament on August 30, 1991 at Flushing Meadows Park in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

Source: Oprah

Trump first started showing signs of interest for a possible bid for the US presidency with the formation of a presidential exploratory committee ahead of the 2000 election.

Billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump (R) talks with host Larry King after taping a segment of King's CNN talk show, in New York October 7. Reuters

Source: Reuters

In 2005, Donald Trump married fashion designer and model Melania Trump.

Real estate magnate Donald Trump (L) and Melania Trump leave Hollinger International's annual meeting at the Metropolitan Club in New York on May 22, 2003.

REUTERS/Peter Morgan PM/ME

Source: PolitiFact

As no stranger to the political process, Donald Trump was even acquainted with members of the judicial branch.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (L), serving as the grand marshal for the Daytona 500, speaks to Donald Trump  on the starting grid at the Daytona International Speedway February 14. JLS/ELD

Trump famously launched his presidential campaign in June 2015 by coming down an escalator in Trump Tower. Since then, he has weathered waves of controversy to become the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

 (Photo by Christopher Gregory/Getty Images)

Trump made his final appeal to voters in swing-states as the contentious campaign drew to a close.

 Donald Trump speaks at a rally at SNHU Arena in Manchester, NH, on Nov. 7, 2016, the night before election day. (Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

President-elect Trump at his election night party at the Hilton Hotel in New York City.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Republican president-elect Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd during his election night event. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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According to Edison Research exit poll data, 41 percent of voters were favorable to the Democratic presidential nominee and 36 percent were favorable to Trump. However, 18 percent of the voting electorate said they had an unfavorable opinion of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. That's 1-in-5 voters who participated in the 2016 general election without favoring one of the two major presidential candidates.

This 1-in-5 voter is the demographic that broke strongly for Trump, 49 percent to 29 percent.

After the most contentious, hotly-contested campaign season in modern US history, one could argue an abnormally apathetic electorate was relatively expected -- and it was abnormal. The percentage of "neither" voters in the 2016 election doubled since 2012, when only 9 percent of voters were unfavorable to both candidates.

Looking at how "neithers" voted in swing states, it becomes clear just how critical these voters were in Trump's winning. In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and North Carolina -- all key battleground states -- the votes Trump gained from apathetic voters were greater than his total margin in these states.

In Florida, where 14 percent of voters were "neithers," 61 percent of them voted for Trump where 24 percent of them voted for Clinton.

SEE ALSO: Contentious figure may be a Trump cabinet finalist

It's important to note other demographic descriptors of "neither" voters. This 18 percent of the electorate is 61 percent more likely to be male. According to CNN polls, Trump won 53 percent of the male vote this election. Where Clinton led by 12 percentage points among women and Trump led by the same among men, it is assumed to be the largest election gender gap in more than 60 years.

Leading up to Election Day, the phrase "lesser of two evils" was thrown around a lot by voters who felt they didn't have a viable option in presidential candidates to support. As President-elect Trump prepares for life in the Oval Office, he is also faced with the task of winning over the Americans who didn't find him favorable as a presidential candidate -- including the ones that voted for him.

BY CHRISTINA GREGG

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