Last week's release of population data from the U.S. Census had some good and bad news for President Donald Trump with 2020 approaching.
Nationally, the counties that made up Donald Trump’s base in 2016 lag behind those that voted for Hillary Clinton in population growth, according to the new 5-year American Communities Survey. But look closer at the numbers, and they suggest some rays of light for Trump in the states that mater.
In the new data, 2,600 counties that voted for Trump in 2016 added about 1.79 million more voting-age people in the last two years. Meanwhile, the roughly 500 counties that voted for Clinton added 2.72 million people.
Those data certainly follow the familiar national narrative out of 2016. Donald Trump had a problem because he won in places that are small, largely rural and growing more slowly than the nation as a whole.
So, advantage Clinton, right? It’s not that easy. Look at the states where the final margin was close in 2016 and that put Trump over the top on the electoral map: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
- In Michigan the eight counties that voted for Clinton have added 23,512 people 18-or-older. But the 75 counties that voted for Trump have added 39,206. That’s an edge of 15,694 for Trump counties.
- In Wisconsin, the 12 counties that voted for Clinton have added 17,438 18-or-older people, but the Trump counties have added 19,271. That’s an 1,833-person edge for Trump counties.
- In Pennsylvania, Clinton counties actually hold the edge, 44,350 new 18-or-older people versus 2,363 for Trump counties – a 41,987 Clinton advantage.
If Trump were to hold everything else and just lose Pennsylvania, he would still win reelection. Michigan and Wisconsin would be enough.
These data don’t prove anything, of course. The candidates and issue environment for 2020 is unknown and unknowable. And there is nothing saying the new potential voters in these counties lean one way or the other.
But the numbers serve as a reminder that the Democratic advantage in the growing urban areas of the United States doesn’t necessarily manifest itself at the state level, where electoral politics play out.