The Trump administration is off to a rocky start, as every week seems to bring new turmoil and drama. However, it is important to remember how shockingly unlikely this presidency was in the first place.
Since Trump went from nearly zero chance of becoming Leader of the Free World to launching missiles at our enemies, one is left to ask: what trends led to this fate for Democrats?
Ryne Rohla at Decision Desk HQ set out to model American voting patterns, not just on a national or state level, but by burrowing down to the most localized, nuanced metric available: local precincts. Because of the incredible locality and difficulty of attaining such data, few have ever attempted to map the voting populace in this way. Rohla persisted. He explains in his piece entitled, “Creating a National Precinct Map”:
Election results show so much more than simply who won and lost a constitutionally-legitimized popularity contest. Election results lay bare the souls of its voters, translating millions of individual hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations, and biases into tangible, observable quantities. No census or survey can truly capture that singular moment of personal truth which occurs in the ballot box. We can identify your race, your income, a list of a thousand other measurable values which statistically imply the outcome of this moment, but as deterministic as we might try to make it seem, it always comes down to a final act of free will. These individual acts sum to make manifest the inner milieu of a people at a particular moment in time, a secular sacrament ordaining to our political priesthood.
In other words, Rohla knows that voting trends reflect the true spirit of a people, at least for a window in time. This data is important and measuring it accurately is essential. However, even in our digital-first society, nailing down the accurate voting habits of a rural district is difficult.
Precinct data, despite providing the clearest available picture of how areas vote, can be quite difficult to both come by and to visualize. There isn’t a singular, unified source of precinct-level data nationally nor even at the statewide level in many cases. Precinct boundaries frequently shift over time, especially during the decennial redistricting process following each Census.
After spending most of my spare time in 2015 working on a global religion map, the 2016 Presidential Primaries rolled around, and I decided to go for it: I would do everything in my power to create a national precinct map. I didn’t have a team of researchers. I didn’t have aides. I didn’t have much extra money. I didn’t have connections. But for some reason, I thought I could do it anyway.
Hundreds of emails and phone calls and months of work later, here’s what I came up with:
Rohla also went on to map out precinct by precinct for 2012:
Want to see what that looks like year over year?
Credit: Ryne Rohla/Decision Desk HQ/Independent Journal Review
Look at the differences in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania:
The huge change in the maps can be underwrote from an economic perspective, as well. As IJR recently reported:
According to economic expert Stephen Moore, writing in the Washington Times, the reasons Americans are fleeing these states are all driven by economics — namely, that they share the progressive values of “high taxes rates; high welfare benefits; heavy regulation; environmental extremism; high minimum wages.”
Here is an amazing statistic. Of the 10 blue states that Hillary Clinton won by the largest percentage margins — California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut — every single one of them lost domestic migration (excluding immigration) over the last 10 years (2004-14). Nearly 2.75 million more Americans left California and New York than entered these states.
Also, the Democratic Party has lost seats from coast to coast on every level. According to Fox News, the last eight years have proved disastrous for the Democratic Party, handing them over 1,000 losses nationally:
The Democratic Party suffered huge losses at every level during Obama’s West Wing tenure. The grand total: a net loss of 1,042 state and federal Democratic posts, including congressional and state legislative seats, governorships and the presidency.
The latter was perhaps the most profound example of Obama's popularity failing to translate to support for his allies. Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of state under Obama, brought the first family out for numerous campaign appearances. In September, Obama declared that his “legacy’s on the ballot.”
Less than two months later, Americans voted for Donald Trump.
From every angle, the Democratic Party looks like they're in an uphill climb, even all the way down to the local precinct level.