More Americans live in polarized communities, which has resulted in a growing number of local landslide elections, according to an analysis posted on fivethirtyeight.com.
From 1992 to 2016, fivethirtyeight.com says the number of US counties that delivered landslide votes for a presidential candidate – with margins exceeding 50 percent – “exploded from 93 to 1,196, or more than a third of the nation’s counties.”
“More than 61 percent of voters cast ballots in counties that gave either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump at least 60 percent of the major-party vote last November. That’s up from 50 percent of voters who lived in such counties in 2012 and 39 percent in 1992 – an accelerating trend that confirms America’s political fabric, geographically, is tearing apart.”
These election landslides aren’t the result of gerrymandering districts or stagnant politics. They suggest Americans are voting with their feet or live in areas becoming collectively politicized by economic or social conditions such as high jobless or opioid addiction rates.
Fivethirtyeight.com notes Trump carried the large, traditionally Democratic counties that include Utica (New York), Wilkes-Barre (Pennsylvania) and Charleston (West Virginia) with 20 percent or larger margins. Meanwhile, Clinton did the same in San Diego County, Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) and Henrico County (Virginia), which were landslide GOP counties in the 1988 election.
“These examples prove that communities can change allegiances over time,” writes David Wasserman on the public opinion analysis website. “But most places just aren’t budging – in fact, they’re doubling down.” The picture these statistics paint is one of super red and super blue counties, with fewer and fewer purple swing counties.
A byproduct of this geographical polarization is “an entire generation of youth will grow up without much exposure to alternative points of view,” says Wasserman. “If you think out political climate is toxic now, think for a moment about how nasty politics could be in 20 or 30 years from now.s
People who live in landslide counties may be skeptical of how deeply and evenly the nation is divided. Wasserman points out Trump won the presidential election by eking out relatively narrow victories in traditionally blue states, while losing the national popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. “But if you feel like you hardly know anyone who disagrees with you, you’re not alone,” he says. “Chances are the election was a landslide in your backyard."