One of the most notable early results on Election Night came from Florida’s heavily Hispanic Miami-Dade county. President Donald Trump lost it to President-elect Joe Biden by just 7 points, after losing it by 29 points in 2016.
A big question was whether Trump’s improvement in Miami-Dade would be replicated in other majority Hispanic areas on the electoral map.
The answer from coast to coast is a definitive yes. Trump did considerably better than he did in 2016 across an array of Hispanic areas.
When you see such a dramatic shift, it naturally brings up the question over whether we’re looking at something distinct about 2020 or something that will carry into the future.
That’s far from certain. Republicans certainly hope so, and they could be right. It’s way too early to know for sure.
The movement toward Trump shouldn’t be surprising, however. It was clear as day in pre-election polling. In the actual results, the breadth of it is clear.
You can start out in Texas. A lot of articles have been written about how Trump did historically well for a Republican in South Texas. In Starr County, for example, Trump lost by a mere 5 points. Four years ago, Trump was defeated by 60 points in this county. This isn’t just non-Hispanic voters changing their mind, as the county is over 95% Hispanic. The shift in Starr and other counties in South Texas was part of what Politico called Trump winning the “Tejano vote” in the state.
Indeed, this is a big factor to keep in mind: the Hispanic community is diverse, and voters from different backgrounds and ancestry (e.g. Mexico vs. the Dominican Republic) offer differing levels of support to Democrats.
Yet, despite these differences, the movement toward Trump was fairly consistent across the map.
Jump over to Arizona, where Biden became the first Democrat to win a presidential race in a generation. Part of Biden’s win came from taking Santa Cruz County, over 80% Hispanic, by 35 points. Yet Hillary Clinton won the county by 47 points four years ago.
If we look at solidly blue states, too, we see the same trends.
One of the more surprising jumps to Trump came in notoriously anti-Trump California. Biden won Imperial County by 24 points, a significant margin. But it didn’t come close to replicating Clinton’s 42-point win in this county – where more than 80% of residents are Hispanic.
Imperial, though, like many of the counties examined so far, is not in the urban core. There are signs in Arizona and Texas that Trump may have picked up less ground among Hispanics in urban areas.
But while Trump’s gains may have been less among Hispanics living in urban areas, they certainly existed.
California’s 40th congressional district is the most Hispanic in the nation. Its citizen voting age population is over 80% Hispanic, and it’s located in Los Angeles County. The 40th is one of less than 10% of district’s nationwide classified as “pure urban” by CityLab.
Trump’s advancement in Hispanic areas wasn’t just limited to the southern half of the country, either.
Chicago has a large Hispanic community, and it can differ in its voting patterns from other Hispanic areas in the country (see the 2016 Democratic primary). In Ward 22, nearly 90% of the population is Hispanic.
Lawrence, Massachusetts, about 80% Hispanic, is another northern area where Trump outperformed his 2016 baseline. Trump lost the city by 48 points in 2020. That’s a poor showing, but it’s considerably better than the 67-point defeat he suffered in 2016.
The Lawrence result stands out for a secondary reason: Trump vastly underperformed his 2016 performance in Massachusetts overall. Trump lost the state by 33 points in 2020, while going down by 27 points in 2016. That shift away from Trump was larger than in any of the states discussed above. Trump lost ground in every county in Massachusetts and in every other municipality in Essex County (where Lawrence is located).
Lastly, take a gander at New York’s 15th congressional district. It is the heart of one of the most urban and Democratic counties (the Bronx) in the country. The Hispanic share of the citizen voting age population (60%) is the largest for any congressional district not in the Sunbelt.
Biden earned a 73-point win, according to Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux. That’s far short of Clinton’s 89 point win in 2016.
Indeed, you’d have to go back to 1992 for a Democratic presidential candidate to win this district or its predecessors in the South Bronx by a smaller margin than Biden.
One thing to keep in mind is that Trump was the incumbent this time around. In the Bronx congressional district we were just discussing, Republican incumbents have done better in every election since the 1990s than they did in their prior election when they were running in a race with no incumbent. This includes Trump, George W. Bush in 2004 and George H.W. Bush in 1992. In both 2020 and 1992, this happened even as the incumbents lost ground nationally.
We could see some reversion to the Democrats in 2024 merely because the Republicans won’t control the White House.