Who did your neighbor vote for in the 2016 presidential election? The odds are you and most of the people in your neighborhood voted the same way.
The Trump-Clinton election was close. Clinton won the popular vote 48.2 percent to 46.1 percent for Trump. (The Electoral College result was not as close, with Trump getting 304 votes to Clinton’s 232.) The results might make you think that neighborhoods were pretty evenly divided, but in fact just the opposite is true.
A review of the nation’s voting patterns from last November by David Wasserman of the political website fivethirtyeight.com found that “counties are increasingly super red or super blue, with less and less in between.” As Wasserman writes, “Purple America has all but disappeared.”
The two leading candidates scored statistical landslides in most of the counties where they won. “More than 61 percent of the voters cast ballots in counties that gave either Clinton or Trump at least 60 percent of the majority-party vote last November.” That’s up from 50 percent in 2012 and 39 percent from 1992.
Wasserman says the numbers demonstrate “an accelerating trend that confirms that America’s fabric, geographically, is tearing apart.”
West Virginia was among the reddest states last November. Trump won 68 percent of the popular vote and carried all 55 counties. He prevailed by a margin of two-to-one or greater in all but five counties—Cabell, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marion and Monongalia—but even in those counties the race was not close.
The county landslide trend extended across the country. “Of the nation’s 3,113 counties (or county equivalents), just 303 were decided by single digit margins—less than ten percent,” Wasserman writes. “In contrast, 1,096 counties fit that description in 1992, even though the election featured a wider national spread.”
Wasserman’s findings are significant. Increasingly we live in what he calls “single-party enclaves,” communities that are becoming more polarized over time. If there is an upside it’s that we are choosing to live among people who share similar values and can help form strong bonds and a greater sense of community.
However, Wasserman says it also means “an entire generation of youth will grow up without much exposure to alternative points of view.” That will contribute to even greater political polarization that makes it increasingly difficult to find common ground or resolve political differences.
Wasserman warns, “If you think our political climate is toxic now, think for a moment about how nasty politics could be 20 or 30 years from now.”
And that’s a scary thought.