The fascinating swings in 2016 voting by state and sort of county

If you wish to perceive politics, one of many folks you must take note of is Prepare dinner Political Report’s Dave Wasserman. He’s a kind of guys who has at his speedy disposal varied bits of information particular to the closest thousandth about how some suburban county in Wisconsin voted in 1956 and the way that informs the doubtless winner of the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.

That is hyperbolic, however solely barely.

On Wednesday, Wasserman weighed in on the continuing debate over the extent to which Texas and Arizona could possibly be in play for Democrats in 2020. As we’ve famous, the ends in Texas in 2016 alone gave Trump his electoral faculty win; flip that state and Hillary Clinton is president. As we’ve additionally famous, Texas was nearer three years in the past than Iowa, a state Barack Obama gained in 2012. And, as we’ve moreover famous, no state Trump gained in 2016 was extra lukewarm about his efficiency as president final 12 months than the Lone Star State.

Typically, Texas’ accessibility for Democrats is described as being a perform of the extent to which its changing into extra various. However Wasserman factors out one other vital issue: It’s additionally changing into extra city.

The Division of Agriculture has an index by which it ranks how city or rural a county is. It’s a nine-point scale, working from most city (1) to most rural (9). Sixty of Texas’s 254 counties are ranked as a 1 or a 2. Three of Arizona’s 15 are. These knowledge are from 2013. When the Division of Agriculture did the identical index in 2003, solely 47 of Texas’ counties had been thought-about that city.

If we take a look at how states voted in 2016 and evaluate them to the density of votes forged in these most-dense city counties, we see a weak correlation: The upper the share of votes forged in counties rated 1 or 2, the higher Clinton tended to do.

This in itself isn’t new; the urban-rural divide in electoral politics is by now a factor of widespread information. If we take a look at the counties becoming every of the 9 density sorts, in actual fact, we persistently see that more-urban counties vote extra closely Democratic than more-rural ones. In reality, relying on the state, it’s usually solely these most city counties that most popular Clinton to Trump in 2016.

We’ve highlighted Texas and Arizona on that chart. Texas specifically is attention-grabbing. Essentially the most city counties went barely for Trump in 2016. The counties that had been barely smaller voted for Clinton by a bit of greater than 2 factors.

However, after all, these more-urban counties are additionally the place extra folks dwell. Whereas it’s solely the more-urban locations that persistently backed Clinton, that’s additionally the place much more folks dwell. That is the outdated “the electoral map is all crimson” downside: Empty house could also be very partisan, but it surely’s not very populated.

There have been much more votes in these closely city Texas counties in 2016 than in the remainder of the state — greater than twice as many, in actual fact. Trump gained that vote narrowly (by about 50,000 votes) and gained the state by about 800,000.

That’s an enormous hole to make up, which is one purpose that observers assume Texas stays an unlikely pick-up for the Democrats.

However it’s value noting, too, that there have been solely 15 states in 2016 during which no less than 80 p.c of the votes forged got here from the more-urban counties within the state. Clinton gained 11 of them. The 4 she misplaced included Pennsylvania and Florida, which she misplaced by 0.7 and 1.2 proportion factors, respectively.

The opposite two had been Texas and Arizona.

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