Massive voter turnout increases in rural areas drove Trump to victory

With an estimated 134 million ballots cast on Tuesday, raw overall voter turnout increased by about 4 million compared to four years ago when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was soundly defeated by incumbent President Barack Obama, as stronger support for the 2016 GOP candidate in rural and deindustrialized areas was the key to Donald Trump’s victory.

Despite the record gross voting number, the percentage of the U.S. voter-eligible population that showed up to the polls Election Day actually decreased from 2012, the lowest turnout rate since 2000. In both 2004 and 2008, over 60 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Generally, Republican candidates do better as a percentage of the total vote when turnout is lower, but Tuesday’s results show that that axiom may not have applied in 2016.

In states won by GOP candidate Donald Trump, overall turnout stayed relatively the same as in 2012, while less people generally voted in those areas where Clinton prevailed. More significantly, both raw turnout and percentage gains increased significantly in rural counties that are overwhelmingly Republican, while both numbers decreased in Democratic urban areas.

For example, in Wayne County, Mich., home of Detroit, approximately 63,000 fewer ballots were cast compared to 2012. In Milwaukee, about 71,000 less people voted and Hillary Clinton received an estimated 39,000 fewer votes than President Obama four years ago.

By contrast, largely rural counties voted for Trump in significantly higher numbers than they did for Romney. In Clark County, Wis., the 2012 GOP nominee won by nine points, compared to Trump’s 32 percent margin of victory. Oscoda County, Mich., favored Romney over Obama by 16 points, while the difference between Trump and Clinton was 45 percent.

Monroe County in southeastern Ohio is a microcosm of northern Appalachia at large, and in the swing state, counties like it put Trump over the top: In 2012, Romney won the county by 7 points, while Trump ran up the score by 47 percent over Clinton. Even in slightly more affluent rural counties that are less coal-based economically, like Fulton County in south-central Pennsylvania, Trump outperformed Romney by a large margin, winning by nearly 71 points compared to the 2012 GOP nominee’s 57 percent margin.

More industrial areas like Stark County, Ohio, where Canton is located, also went overwhelmingly for Trump. In 2012, Romney received less than 1,000 more votes than Obama there, while Trump beat Clinton by approximately 30,000. Ohio at-large swung dramatically to the Republicans Tuesday, as 2016’s presidential vote represented a 12-point turnaround from four years ago when Romney lost to Obama in the Buckeye State by three percent.

In addition, CNN exit polling data shows Trump did significantly better with certain voter demographic groups than his 2012 Republican counterpart, including African-Americans, Latinos, and those with only a high school degree or “some college”.

As far as the overall popular vote, it’s likely Trump will not receive more total ballot support than Romney, who officially earned 60,933,504 votes in 2012 or 47.2 percent. As of Monday morning with 99 percent counted, according to AP, Trump’s vote tally is 60,371,193 — also 47.2 percent. Clinton has received just over 61 million votes to-date, or 47.8 percent.

Third party candidates also received more support in 2016. Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson is counted with over 4 million votes so far, about three times as many compared to 2012.  Jill Stein’s tally also jumped significantly to more than 1.257 million, at least 788,097 more votes than the Green Party candidate got four years ago.


[United States Elections Project] [Wall Street Journal] [Politico] [CNN] [Photo courtesy Reuters/Jim Young via]