The Problem with the Cafepress Election Prediction

The Problem with the Cafepress Election Prediction

The unofficial merchandise from “House of Hillary” was wildly successful. The brand opted to deal directly with its vendors, rather than use middleman companies such as Cafepress.

Cafepress has received some attention for having predicted that Trump would win the 2016 election when all polling suggested the opposite. In place of polling data, the company used internal sales data of unofficial merchandise to successfully predict the outcome.

It’s a pretty clever way to sample public opinion, but a flawed one. The Cafepress sample was undeniably skewed to favor Trump.  Rather than it being an indication of misstep by the Hillary campaign, the Cafepress data actually underscores how Trump was outflanked by Hillary and her supporters.

Cafepress failed to predict the popular vote winner

Cafepress has yet to clarify if its “model” depended on detailed analysis of the electoral map, or a general comparison of national data. What we do know is that Cafepress did not accurately predict the winner of the popular vote.  We make this point in order to reduce the temptation to use their data as evidence of a false “enthusiasm gap” between the candidates.  As we discuss below, Hillary actually did sell more merchandise than Trump – just not on Cafepress.

“Made in U.S.A.” mattered more to Hillary’s Supporters than Trump’s

It’s an undisputed fact that Donald Trump doesn’t care what country his products are manufactured in, so long as it helps his bottom line. It’s also a fact that his support is largely based upon his credentials as a businessman. Therefore we understand that “made in the U.S.A.” mattered proportionally less to Trump’s supporter than Hillary’s.  

Cafepress offers mostly cheap imported products, making them more appealing to a Trump customer-entrepreneur. Conversely, FII makes quality American-made products and is approached by many progressive groups and entrepreneurs that abandon companies like Cafepress, upon realizing that their products are foreign-made.

Hillary’s supporters were better entrepreneurs

Product country of origin wasn’t the only reason Hillary supporter-entrepreneurs avoided Cafepress. They also recognized how Cafepress was an unnecessary middleman that cut into their margins. As an alternative they worked directly with vendor’s to source, market, and sell their products.  

We’ll be honest, throughout the campaign we saw some amazing unofficial merchandise (i.e. House of Hillary). And while in some cases these products presented the campaign with stiff competition, they demonstrated how Progressives were more self-sufficient, industrious and adept to modern business tools than Republicans.

Hillary sold more official merchandise than Trump

Let that marinate while we explain something. When you purchase official merchandise from a campaign, the proceeds can legally be used to fund the campaign. Proceeds from unofficial merchandise (sold by any external group) cannot legally be donated to or accepted by a campaign 99% of the time.

Hillary supporters were educated about this distinction through campaign communications. As a result, the official merchandise program consolidated a higher percentage of market share away from unofficial operations (Cafepress or otherwise) than Trump was able to. Trump’s merchandise on Cafepress was more available and sold better within that one platform. But it was Hillary’s campaign, and her supporter-entrepreneurs that were better able to capitalize upon the merchandise market.