Trump Victory in Michigan: Rural Revolt or Urban Apathy?

 
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By Ali ZifanOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Discussing @tkc1101’s prodigious prognosticating abilities with regard to this election on a separate post I asked him if he thought that Trump’s victory was all do to a working class rural revolt or if perhaps he also benefited from urban apathy which saw a slackening of Obama’s Millennial/Minority vote? He could not say, and said he would wait for some further analysis. Curious about my own question I decided to quickly browse through the county results in Pennsylvania from 2012 and 2016. Based on a cursory analysis, my conclusions were that Hillary Clinton in PA did not actually under perform in urban areas as compared to Obama. Rather, her loss came from Trump over performing Mitt Romney in the more rural areas of PA and her under performing Obama in these same area. This indicated to me that for Pennsylvania at least based on a quick skim of the data Trump won because of a Rural Revolt.

With that bit of tantalizing information, I wondered what the results from Wisconsin  and Michigan  would look like on a by county basis. So, earlier this evening I sat down and decided to have a look. I have only had time to look at the data from Michigan in any detail so I will only be discussing those results. The question I asked was the same one posed for Pennsylvania: Rural Revolt or Urban Apathy?

To help answer this question I looked at the vote total from each county in Michigan from both 2012 and 2016, comparing Trump’s and Hillary’s performance to those of Romney and Obama (respectively). I also tabulated the the results for all third parties effectively treating them as one candidate and comparing their totals from 2012 to those in 2016.

Results:

Donald Trump is currently winning the State of Michigan by 11,837 votes (I believe votes are still being tabulated and have not yet been certified). Total voter turnout in 2016 was only about 60,000 to 70,000 more votes than in 2012.

Donald Trump over-performed Mitt Romney in all but seven of Michigan’s 83 counties, and those seven all tended to be suburban/urban counties based on their larger vote totals. It should be noted though that in Wayne County, which is the county for the City of Detroit, Trump actually over-performed Romney. Comparing 2012 to 2016, the general pattern for Michigan’s rural counties was that Trump’s gains over Romney were slightly less than Clinton’s losses compared to Obama, with third parties making up the difference, usually indicating a net gain of voters for the county. The obvious interpretation of this is that Hillary’s loss was more or less Trump’s gain, with also substantial gains for the Third Party tickets as a whole. In fact most counties gained in total votes cast compared to 2012, which is of course what you would expect, given that the vote total was higher overall.

Hillary Clinton under-performed Obama in all but 6 of 83 counties. Of these counties, four were also ones where Trump under-performed Romney. Trump’s worst county was Kent County which he still managed to win if more narrowly than Mitt Romney had done. Possibly indicating the effects of defecting Republicans. Another of these four of interest is Washtenaw, home of the University of Michigan. Here again, Clinton got a boost possibly indicating defections among Republicans to Hillary. It should be noted that the third parties did well in both of these counties compared to 2012.

Clinton’s problem in Michigan can be summed up in three counties: Wayne, Saginaw, and Genesee, all three of which Obama carried in 2012. She under-performed in all three while Trump over-performed Romney in each; the combination was enough to flip Saginaw from blue to red. Turn out was down in all these counties: In Wayne County alone, by about 40,000 votes compared to 2012. These are all urban/suburban counties, if I am not mistaken. And between them, you have a loss in total votes nearly five times greater than the margin of victory for Trump in the whole state. The lost votes appear to have all been Obama’s.

Third parties over-performed their 2012 totals spectacularly, leaping from 51,000 total votes in 2012 to around 240,000 in 2016. Jill Stein alone went from around 22,000 votes in 2012 to more than 50,000 in 2016. The difference in her performance alone was nearly three times Trump’s margin of victory. Gary Johnson was not on the ballot in 2012, but was a write-in candidate and then only garnered less than 7,774 votes; while in 2016 he got more than 20 times that vote total. Consistently, in every county, Stein and Johnson over-performed their 2012 results. Most notably, they did very well in counties where both Trump and Hillary under performed like Oakland County. They also showed strong gains in the three counties that saw an overall vote decrease compared to 2012 mentioned above.

Conclusions

The evidence of the Rural Revolt is there through all of the low population counties of Michigan, with Trump seemingly turning Democrats into Republicans. But based on all the data presented above, I think it was also necessary for Clinton to suffer from Urban Apathy, as she clearly did in Wayne and Genesee counties. Additionally, third parties’ strong showings probably sapped from Clinton’s votes; in the rural counties, the third party vote total often helped to make up the difference between Clinton’s loss and Trump’s gain, indicating that in these places she bled votes not only to Trump, but also to these other candidates. So, in Michigan the Rural Revolt primed Trump for victory: without it, he would not have narrowly overcome Hillary, but third parties and a significant under performance in urban areas delivered the win. So I would conclude that both Rural Revolt and Urban Apathy are responsible for Trump’s narrow win in Michigan.

Considering 2020, it is clear that Trump will need to keep his rural base, but even a modest improvement in urban turnout for Democrats can hand them a victory, unless Trump finds votes elsewhere. The catch will be what those 240,000 Third Party voters do. Of them we might guess that 50,000 are probably committed to their third party, leaving 90,000 potential voters for both Trump and his Democratic challenger. The question is whether Trump get enough of them to make up for what will surely be an increased urban voter turnout in Michigan in 2020. Also, is there potentially a new hidden vote of suburban Republicans who left their ballot blank for president in 2016, but who will come and vote for Trump in 2020 if he proves successful? Can they make up for the urban increase that should come?

I hope you all found this interesting. I certainly did. If you have questions about specific counties, I can share my results with you about them in the comments. I am also interested to hear from Michiganders about what they saw and think about this analysis. If I can I will do the same analysis with with Wisconsin too, and go and take a look at PA again more thoroughly. But writing this thing took quite a bit of time so it might be slow in coming.

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  1. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    You may have seen this, but I found this chart on Pennsylvania interesting.  Clinton’s margin of victory in Philly appears to be about 37,000 votes less than Obama in ’12.  Clinton outperformed in the more affluent suburbs.

    • #1
  2. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Hoyacon:You may have seen this, but I found this chart on Pennsylvania interesting. Clinton’s margin of victory in Philly appears to be about 37,000 votes less than Obama in ’12. Clinton outperformed in the more affluent suburbs.

     

    I had not seen that chart but is is very interesting. It basically confirms the Trump Rural Revolt and hidden voter theory. Which to me seems to only have held up best in PA. If I am not mistaken I would have to count but Trump winning all of Romney’s states from 2012 plus OH and FL and PA would be enough to win on its own. So in that sense the Rural Vote alone in PA was enough for victory. MI certainly required the Dems to drop the ball and my guess is that the same is true for WI since if I recall Trump and Romney got similar vote totals at least back when I looked at it after the election. In MI the places where Hillary outperformed Obama also I think were suburbs for the most part.

    So that could have been Republican crossovers put off by Trump. I wonder then if in 2020 those all switch back. In which case it will blunt the urban vote increase that the Dems will go for.

    How loyal are the rural voters though? Are they culturally tied to him or will they be performance based?

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Thanks, Valiuth. They allow Republicans into Washtenaw County now? I thought we all had to be out by sundown.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    By the way, the original definition of “Hillbilly” was a Michigan dirt farmer.

    • #4
  5. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Very good stuff.

    For the GOP to secure the base and win again in four years, they will have had to show tangible high wage job improvement in the rustbelt states (manufacturing returns) for both whites and blacks and latinos.

    They will need to change a significant chuck of black and latino urban voters from Dem to GOP and keep the rural whites. They also , to win female minority votes, need to show  safe schools either demonstrated or actually partially working in the inner cities.  All in four years. Clock is ticking.

    Jobs and Schools and the GOP locks down the working class like FDR did for decades. Jobs and Schools.

    • #5
  6. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    What did FDR do for schools? For jobs he did government work programs, though it is arguable how much they actually helped. The biggest benefit was probably a sense of security more so than tangible increases in wages and employment. Then WWII basically obscures everything. Real prosperity comes in the 50’s and 60’s.

    • #6
  7. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Valiuth:What did FDR do for schools? For jobs he did government work programs, though it is arguable how much they actually helped. The biggest benefit was probably a sense of security more so than tangible increases in wages and employment. Then WWII basically obscures everything. Real prosperity comes in the 50’s and 60’s.

    He did not need to do anything to schools. The unions had not FUBARed them yet.

    FDR mismanaged the recession but provided hope and got the credit when it ended.

    Todays voters are much less patient.

    • #7
  8. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    FDR locked in a democratic majority for decades. He was the guy after the crash and knew his PR.  The GOP was as hopeless on imagery as they are today.

    I am counting on Trump understanding imagery better than the Dems this time. I expect he will continue a form of the rallies. His primary job is to maintain hope and enthusiasm. Something no GOP leader has done since Reagan, who also understood imagery.

    • #8
  9. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    This validates my theory that nothing matters but personality and energy. Obama had it in spades over the crotchety McCain and dull earthen shades of Romney. Clinton, for all her other negatives, is just plain boring. Trump is at least exciting like a car crash. Even going back to ’00 and ’04, Bush was fun to watch compared to the very odd (and obnoxious) Gore and Kerry with his very off-putting snootiness.

    • #9
  10. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    Reading your analysis, I am becoming more and more convinced that Trump may have accomplished something that the other Republican candidates might not have done, he energized a segment of the population that has grown sick and tired of political correctness and the leftist trend of the urban areas. To accomplish that it took a pretty outlandish character. Trump filled the bill. I have to admit I was wrong in believing he was unelectable, or that his win was more a case of Hillary’s loss. I fervently pray that I was wrong as to his ability to do the things he has set as his goals during the campaign. For that, only time will tell.

     

    • #10
  11. RyanFalcone Member
    RyanFalcone
    @RyanFalcone

    I’ve been checking the maps and they are very revealing. First one brief note from a PA perspective. The Philly numbers are likely for 2 reasons, A. Hillary just isn’t black and that hurt her…B. there has been some success in thwarting voter fraud in Philly. A major organization that was behind massive fraud was nailed by the authorities about a week before the election which may have cost the Dems thousands of votes.

    I have perused the States of PA, OH and Mich election results at the county level and they are striking. By my calculation, only 3 rural counties voted for Hillary. One in PA has seen massive Hispanic immigration. One in Ohio is where Ohio University is located and one in Michigan where Refugees have been located. Every other county either contains an urbanized area of more than 100K or a large public university.

    Another PA note: 67 counties in PA. On average, 63 counties have gotten more red in the past 3 presidential elections. There isn’t a single county that is less red now than it was 3 elections ago. In this past election Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) was one of 2 counties that got bluer after having gotten more red for at least 4 consecutive Presidential elections. It tends to be redder in mid-term elections. The other county to get bluer was Centre (Penn State-main). It has been less than a percentage point one way or the other for awhile.

    • #11
  12. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    Eugene Kriegsmann:Reading your analysis, I am becoming more and more convinced that Trump may have accomplished something that the other Republican candidates might not have done, he energized a segment of the population that has grown sick and tired of political correctness and the leftist trend of the urban areas. To accomplish that it took a pretty outlandish character. Trump filled the bill. I have to admit I was wrong in believing he was unelectable, or that his win was more a case of Hillary’s loss. I fervently pray that I was wrong as to his ability to do the things he has set as his goals during the campaign. For that, only time will tell.

    I’m not sure any other Republican could have flipped PA, the white whale of the party since the 90s. Not to say any of the other candidates couldn’t forge a path to victory. It would just be harder.

    As the saying goes, now to govern.

    • #12
  13. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Valiuth: for what will surely be an increased urban voter turnout in Michigan in 2020

    Not so fast, Detroit has been hemorrhaging population for years. This likely the reason why the vote count was down in Wayne county this year.

    • #13
  14. Mr. Conservative Inactive
    Mr. Conservative
    @mrconservative

    Very good analysis and clear writing.  Extremely helpful V.

    • #14
  15. Polyphemus Inactive
    Polyphemus
    @Polyphemus

    The King Prawn:This validates my theory that nothing matters but personality and energy….

    This is perhaps the most underestimated factor by all who think, talk and write about this stuff. We like to ascribe deeper, policy-related meanings to Presidential elections where there is much higher voter turnout among the, shall we say, less well-informed. The shallow and unsatisfying answer for all of us who think seriously about this stuff and argue passionately over policy and political philosophy is this:  Presidents are elected as much because of superficial notions of coolness, relatability, and somehow fitting the mood with the right image.

    2012: Obama much cooler than uptight, gawky Romney

    2008: McCain old and crotchety compared to novel, cool and, especially, black Obama.

    2004: Bush was labeled a “cowboy” by the Left. Most of us, however, kind of like cowboys. And Kerry was a pompous, ridiculous Lurch.

    2000: Less clear divide. Bush was not as known but Gore kind of weirded out. Election was a near draw.

    1996: Dole was crotchety old guy who told you to get of the lawn. Clinton was still the cooler gold old boy who played sax.

    1992: Bush was old, patrician, (“not at this juncture”…remember that?) and didn’t know how groceries were purchased. Clinton was new, younger and more hip.  Perot got mileage out of his folksy, roll-up-our-sleeves and fix it shtick.

    1988: Bush was Reagan 2.0. Dukakis was ridiculous imp driving a tank like a toddler.

    • #15
  16. Viator Inactive
    Viator
    @Viator

    Don’t fret Keith Ellison will be the new DNC chair, Elizabeth Warren will be the face of the Progocrat party, and the Dems will be unstoppable in 2018

    • #16
  17. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Eugene Kriegsmann:Reading your analysis, I am becoming more and more convinced that Trump may have accomplished something that the other Republican candidates might not have done…

    Well in a previous post I argued no one could have done much better from an Electoral Collage stand point than what Trump did. And, I agree that Trump’s win is probably unique to him. But, this does not disprove the theory that others could not have won these states, but with a different coalition of voters. Trump ran strong in rural areas this is true and it put him in a good position. But, we can’t know if a different candidate would not have been able to make up the deficit in more urban and suburban areas. We also don’t know how much actual vote flipping was going on, and how much was due to Trump or hatred of Hillary. Hillary had losses throughout the rural areas that seemed to be mirrored by Trump gains, but it could be that you had whole new voters showing up for Trump while traditional democrats just stayed home for Hillary. We can’t really know what that split it from the data. We also don’t know how much third parties took from either candidate, and there were plenty of votes locked up in third parties to swing the state of Michigan.

    Trump’s benefit is that we know his method works, while other ones remain theoretical at the moment.

    • #17
  18. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Z in MT:

    Valiuth: for what will surely be an increased urban voter turnout in Michigan in 2020

    Not so fast, Detroit has been hemorrhaging population for years. This likely the reason why the vote count was down in Wayne county this year.

    That is an interesting point, in which case then things might be even more grim for Democrats in Michigan.

    • #18
  19. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    TKC1101: Jobs and Schools and the GOP locks down the working class like FDR did for decades. Jobs and Schools.

    I don’t think there is any way that the GOP locks down anything like FDR did. John Engler acted as though that’s what he was doing in Education, and he was wrong.  The state board of education, which now has a lot of authority that was in local hands before Engler’s changes, has been 6-2 Democratic.  Two Democrats lost to Republicans in very close elections this time around, so now it’s tied between Democrats and Republicans. But that’s a very tenuous state of affairs. One of those new Republicans made decentralization a campaign issue, which is good, but how he’s going to accomplish that at this stage of the game is unclear.

    But basically, FDR locked things down through corruption. The GOP doesn’t have that weapon in its toolkit.

    • #19
  20. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    To the question of personality over policy. I wonder though to what extent the two are separable. Trump’s public persona was in no small part fueled by his policy prescriptions (build a wall, bring back our jobs). Could you have had his personality win if he was running on just tax reform, and deregulation? I don’t think his crowds were cheering for the reduction of corporate taxes and reduction in EPA rules (though maybe they were to some extent) the big lines were build a wall and punish companies that outsource.

    • #20
  21. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I live in rural Michigan and get some anecdotal reports from various parts of the state, including Detroit and Detroit suburbs. I don’t know anything that would contradict what you say.

    In the war of yard signs, I think I saw some Trump signs taken down along my usual rural bicycle routes – presumably taken down voluntarily. And some Clinton ones appeared toward the end. But there are a lot of Trump ones still out there.

    Two neighbor families, one white/blue collar and one blue collar, who never before put out yard signs of any kind, put up Trump signs this year.

    I didn’t put up any yard signs this year.

    • #21
  22. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    The Reticulator:

    TKC1101: Jobs and Schools and the GOP locks down the working class like FDR did for decades. Jobs and Schools.

    I don’t think there is any way that the GOP locks down anything like FDR did. John Engler acted as though that’s what he was doing in Education, and he was wrong. The state board of education, which now has a lot of authority that was in local hands before Engler’s changes, has been 6-2 Democratic. Two Democrats lost to Republicans in very close elections this time around, so now it’s tied between Democrats and Republicans. But that’s a very tenuous state of affairs. One of those new Republicans made decentralization a campaign issue, which is good, but how he’s going to accomplish that at this stage of the game is unclear.

    But basically, FDR locked things down through corruption. The GOP doesn’t have that weapon in its toolkit.

    FDR also had four elections to build his coalition, and to be fair to the man his handling of WWII was admirable overall. Towards the end he might have dropped the ball a bit in my opinion with Yalta, but I say that with the advantage of hindsight and not a little personal self interest.

    • #22
  23. Fredösphere Inactive
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    Arahant:Thanks, Valiuth. They allow Republicans into Washtenaw County now? I thought we all had to be out by sundown.

    Yo, @arahant, you forgot your ol’ buddy. My compound is too heavily fortified for them to evict me. It draws its inspiration from Harry Bennett’s fortress, just down the road.

    • #23
  24. Fredösphere Inactive
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    Also, is there potentially a new hidden vote of suburban Republicans who left their ballot blank for president in 2016, but who will come and vote for Trump in 2020 if he proves successful?

    I’m a #NeverTrump voter in Michigan. I will certainly do a full recalculation in 2020, if Trump runs again. (He’s pretty old; we’ll see if his health and motivation allow him another run.) Next time, I’ll be voting on Trump the administration, not Trump the man.

    • #24
  25. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Val,

    Your Urban Apathy concept is quite plausible. I’d like to add my own little theory. It is but another variety of the shy voter syndrome. In this case, it is a shy non-voter. Mrs. Democrat sees Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, and Madonna’s endorsements of Hillary and is nauseated. Mrs. Democrat hears a gangsta rapper screaming hate expletives about Trump and is repulsed. Mrs. Democrat is hounded by aggressive lefty neighbors and co-workers and resents it. Mrs. Democrat has seen some of the evidence that Hill & Bill are corrupt and she is appalled.

    Mrs. Democrat tells those that insist on an answer (pollsters, neighbors, co-workers) that yes she is voting for Hillary. Then stays home on election day. Val this isn’t quite apathy. This is repressed anger.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #25
  26. Chuck Enfield Inactive
    Chuck Enfield
    @ChuckEnfield

    Valiuth: How loyal are the rural voters though? Are they culturally tied to him or will they be performance based?

    My suspicion as a central-PA resident is that Trump is relatively safe to win all the same rural counties except for those in the Hazelton/Wilkes-Barre/Scranton corridor.  That area is going to demand some results on jobs and immigration, or they may go the other way next cycle.

    The other risk is turnout.  Comparing turnout to 2012 doesn’t tell the whole story.  Philadelphia and the four surrounding counties turned out 2000 fewer voters in 2016 than in 2008, despite a population increase.  I didn’t examine the results by precinct, but I suspect a similar trend in the population centers within the rural counties as well.  If the Dems nominate a charismatic candidate and a few Trump-leaning voters stay home, that 70,000 vote margin of victory will evaporate very quickly.

    I think Trump has to demonstrate some results or PA turns blue again in 2020.

    • #26
  27. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Fredösphere:

    Arahant:Thanks, Valiuth. They allow Republicans into Washtenaw County now? I thought we all had to be out by sundown.

    Yo, @arahant, you forgot your ol’ buddy. My compound is too heavily fortified for them to evict me. It draws its inspiration from Harry Bennett’s fortress, just down the road.

    I thought about tagging you on that one, but didn’t know how much you were around anymore.

    • #27
  28. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Very good post and it looks like my original take that Clinton lost it more than Trump won it missed a significant part of what happened in several states including Michigan, Pennsylvania, and especially Florida (where both candidates improved over their 2012 counterparts’ performance, but Trump much more so). That’s impressive.

    But it’s also true that several of the states that flipped were due at least as much to her failure as his success. Wisconsin is probably the best example: Trump got 1,500 more votes than Romney, but Clinton lost about 225,000 votes compared to Obama. To a lesser extent, the same thing appears happened in Ohio and Michigan: Trump did better than Romney (and kudos to him for it), but Clinton just bombed.

    • #28
  29. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Fredösphere:

    Also, is there potentially a new hidden vote of suburban Republicans who left their ballot blank for president in 2016, but who will come and vote for Trump in 2020 if he proves successful?

    I’m a #NeverTrump voter in Michigan. I will certainly do a full recalculation in 2020, if Trump runs again. (He’s pretty old; we’ll see if his health and motivation allow him another run.) Next time, I’ll be voting on Trump the administration, not Trump the man.

    Were you a Johnson voter perchance, or did you leave the president blank? My brother who lives in Lancaster PA, was also a NeverTrumper who just left his ballot blank for President but voted for Republican down ballot. My father did likewise though he votes in up here in Chicago with me, so our votes weren’t very decisive in anyway.

    • #29
  30. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    James Gawron:Val,

    Your Urban Apathy concept is quite plausible. I’d like to add my own little theory. It is but another variety of the shy voter syndrome. In this case, it is a shy non-voter. Mrs. Democrat sees Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, and Madonna’s endorsements of Hillary and is nauseated. Mrs. Democrat hears a gangsta rapper screaming hate expletives about Trump and is repulsed. Mrs. Democrat is hounded by aggressive lefty neighbors and co-workers and resents it. Mrs. Democrat has seen some of the evidence that Hill & Bill are corrupt and she is appalled.

    Mrs. Democrat tells those that insist on an answer (pollsters, neighbors, co-workers) that yes she is voting for Hillary. Then stays home on election day. Val this isn’t quite apathy. This is repressed anger.

    Regards,

    Jim

    This is a plausible explanation, but of course we can’t distinguish I’m mad and I wont vote for her, to I don’t give a hoot about her because she ain’t Obama. All we have is the gap in the vote, into which we read what we want. Why does your Mrs. Democrat though not Vote for Trump? Too partisan or actually repulsed by the man? I wonder though if Mrs. Democrat does vote but down ballot. I want to know the number of people who left the presidential space blank. That could be very telling.

    • #30
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