The 2016 presidential election revealed a strongly divided nation. Donald Trump’s victory has been characterized as a “landslide” by some, noting the surprisingly high electoral vote tally. Others note the likelihood that Hillary Clinton will win the popular vote. In any event, the result is far different than many expected. In its last pre—election prediction of the electoral vote, the Los Angeles Times gave Hillary Clinton one-half more electoral votes (352) than she will apparently receive (232). Her apparent popular vote victory (approximately 300,000 at this point) is so concentrated that without California she would have lost the popular vote by more than 3,000,000 (based on trends at this writing).
Just about everyone agrees that the pollsters got this election very wrong. It appears that Trump voters, especially rural voters were significantly under sampled in polling. Generally, it is agreed, that the secret to the success of the Trump campaign was the mobilization of voters who believed that they had been “left-behind” by the “system.” This was the key to the strong Republican performance in the Rust Belt and especially in “coal country.”
In these areas, working households who had depended on manufacturing or mining employment have seen jobs disappear and incomes drop in the last two decades. It was, overall, an election pitting the more fortunate “elite,” especially the West Coast and in Northeastern metropolitan areas against middle and lower middle income households that have not done well. These are households that feel they have been “left-behind” in a national economy that has yet to restore inflation-adjusted 1999 median incomes.
Yet the “left-behind” were evident in voting patterns even in the more prosperous Blue State metropolitan regions (combined statistical areas), especially in outer suburban counties, which often have smaller populations.
The New York metropolitan region, with its high nominal household income, has a number of counties in which Donald Trump polled well.
The four most highly urban boroughs of the city delivered overwhelming mandates to Clinton, with as much as 89 percent of the vote in Manhattan and the Bronx, 80 percent in Brooklyn and 75 percent in Queens. She also received strong support from inner suburban counties, 65 percent in Westchester, 74 percent in Hudson (Jersey City), 77 percent and Essex (Newark) and 66 percent in Mercer (Trenton) and Union (Elizabeth).
However, some of the outer counties showed strong support for Donald Trump. For example, he received 66 percent of the vote in New Jersey’s Ocean County, and more than 60 percent of the vote in Sussex County, New Jersey and won other suburban New Jersey counties such as Monmouth, Hunterdon, Morris. Trump also took Suffolk County in eastern Long Island, and the Hudson Valley counties of Putnam, Orange and Dutchess, where the FDR Library is located.
Even farther out, Trump managed above 60 percent majorities in Pennsylvania’s Pike and Carbon counties and also won Northampton County (Bethlehem).
There was strong support for Trump in Washington – Baltimore metropolitan region, with its lucrative government jobs machine. Northernmost Franklin County, Pennsylvania provided a 71 percent majority to Trump, while Maryland’s Washington County, just across the border, provided 64 percent. Closer to Baltimore, Carroll and Harford provided Trump 65 percent and 60 percent majorities. Across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from an Annapolis, Queen Anne’s County voted 66 percent for Trump. Southeast of Washington, St. Mary’s County voted 60 percent for Trump.
West Virginia’s Hampshire County provided the largest majority in the metropolitan region to Trump at 78 percent, while Berkeley County provided a 60 percent vote. Amazingly, every county in the state of West Virginia voted for Trump, despite its decades of Democratic Party domination, providing Trump a 62 to 27 percent landslide.
The situation was similar in outer counties across the Potomac River in Virginia. Warren County voted 66 percent and Frederick County 65 percent for Trump. Facquier and Culpepper counties supported Trump at 60 percent.
The “Left” Coast
There were even pockets of strong Trump support in some metropolitan regions of the so-called “Left Coast.”
For example, in the Portland metropolitan region, Linn County voted 60 percent for Trump. Among the 11 suburban Portland counties, six supported Trump. Perhaps most surprisingly, Marion County, home of Oregon’s capital (Salem) supported Trump. Marion County was one of only two Clinton supporting states in which the capital county supported Trump (the other being Storey County in Nevada).
California was not to be left out. In the Sacramento metropolitan region, five of the seven suburban counties supported Donald Trump.
Trump managed to command surprisingly strong support in the suburbs of high-income Minneapolis-St. Paul. Beyond Clinton’s predictably strong support in core Ramsey (St. Paul) and Hennepin counties (Minneapolis), all but two of the 19 suburban counties supported Trump. Support was strongest in the outer suburban counties. The entire northeastern corner of the metropolitan region provided strong support to Donald Trump. In Stearns County (St. Cloud), Trump received 60 percent of the vote and an even higher 65 percent in adjacent Benton and Shelburne counties.
Wright County, which is adjacent to central Hennepin County, voted 63 percent for Trump. There was a wall of strong support across the remainder of the metropolitan region’s northern tier, with a 65 percent majority in Isanti County, 64 percent in Mille Lacs County and 61 percent in Chisago County. The southeastern corner of the metropolitan region also supported Trump strongly, with Le Sueur County providing 62 percent and Sibley County providing the largest Minneapolis – St. Paul area majority for Trump at 67 percent.
Denver, with its information technology industry and its high nominal household income supported Hillary Clinton strongly. Yet, four suburban counties supported Trump, Douglas, Weld, Park and Elbert.
What is Behind the Trump Support in Blue States?
While the metropolitan regions discussed above have not endured the huge manufacturing and resource industry losses of the Rust Belt metropolitan regions, some households have faced serious economic challenges. Here the culprit is a high cost of living, most evident in especially high house prices. Many middle income residents are “driving until qualified” to find the housing they desire at a price they can afford.
Like those in the less economically favored parts of the nation, they are having difficulty sustaining their standard of living. With the prospect of mortgage interest increases and price increases from strengthening regulation, the ranks of the “left-behind” could grow, and with it the Trump coalition. Or, a Democratic Party returning to its roots could seize the opportunity, though that seems less likely.
Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California). He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.