Biden Won Counties Totaling 70% of US GDP
Dynamic, high economic output areas of the country overwhelmingly voted Democratic.
There is quite a bit of chatter about the future of demographics. And, as demographers like to remind us, “demographics is destiny.”
It should be noted that historical divisions among the electorate, even ones that have endured for nearly a century, seemed to have reversed during this last election. Trump saw an increase in support from people of color, long a core aspect of the Democratic base. African American support for Trump rose to 12% (from 8% in 2016) and Latino support increased to 31% (from 29% in 2016).
Trump also outperformed his 2016 totals in urban areas. In Philadelphia, the epicenter of the president’s legal efforts, over 18% of voters chose Trump — up from 15% in 2016. Biden, on the other hand, fared better in the suburbs than Clinton did.
But while the racial and geographic divisions have diminished, a new electoral pattern has emerged. Biden carried fewer than 500 counties, but those counties account for 70% of US GDP, according to a new analysis by The Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. Trump won over 2,400 counties, but those smaller, poorer, and more rural counties comprise of 29% of our GDP. (The numbers don’t exactly add up to 100% because of rounding.)
Back in 2016, I noticed that the dynamic, high economic output areas of the country also backed Clinton. She secured nearly three million more votes than Trump, and the counties Clinton won accounted for about 64% of GDP.
Trump is the manifestation of minority rule. At least in terms of people and economics.
As the study’s authors note:
In short, 2020’s map continues to reflect a striking split between the large, dense, metropolitan counties that voted Democratic and the mostly exurban, small-town, or rural counties that voted Republican. Blue and red America reflect two very different economies: one oriented to diverse, often college-educated workers in professional and digital services occupations, and the other whiter, less-educated, and more dependent on “traditional” industries.
It is worth noting that this economic gap — Democrats dominating economically successful areas and vice versa — did not always in exist. In 2000, Gore only slightly edged Bush in terms of counties carried as a representative of GDP.
The two most economically successful counties that Trump managed to win in 2020 were Nassau and Suffolk County, which represent Long Island, New York.
But this is more than just economic trivia or useless information. The fact that the gap exists, and indeed that it is growing, presents problems for our political system, as the authors note:
By contrast, Republicans represent an economic base situated in the nation’s struggling small towns and rural areas. Prosperity there remains out of reach for many, and the party sees no reason to consider the priorities and needs of the nation’s metropolitan centers. That is not a scenario for economic consensus or achievement.
This most recent bit of data should dispel any notion that Democrats are “socialists” or takers. The most economically powerful areas of the country, theoretically with the most to lose under a wealth redistribution platform, vote Democratic. In fact, the ten wealthiest Congressional districts (measured by median household income) are represented by Democrats.
Race and geography are mattering less with predicting electoral results. But economics have never mattered more.