Democrats’ gains in the U.S. House on Nov. 6 reflected a stronger showing across white neighborhoods and suburbs of battleground districts. Republican candidates there overall fell short of matching Donald Trump’s appeal to some of his core support groups in 2016.
Republicans and Democrats were essentially tied in overall total votes across the battlegrounds, compared with a Trump win of almost six points in 2016.
Midterm elections always draw millions fewer voters than those in presidential years, and who gained advantage in battlegrounds depends in part on who didn’t vote, as well as on those who did. On Nov. 6 that translated into an increase in relative influence for big-city suburbs and midsize metro areas. Already the largest bloc of voters in the nation and in the battlegrounds, the suburbs lost the fewest voters compared to 2016 and so gained share over both rural areas and the largest urban centers.
These graphs are based on demographic profiles and election results for almost 600 areas — counties and county portions — that make up 74 House districts that were rated competitive by Cook Political Report as of Election Day. Those races accounted for almost all of the net gains that give Democrats control of the chamber.
Suburban and rural
Few groups in the battlegrounds made a swing from one party to another, but most showed a shift toward Democrats, represented here as downward sloping lines. Republicans still carried the suburbs overall, but the margin was down to less than one percentage point, and in rural areas and small towns down from double digits to five points.
Large urban counties are at the center of metros with a population of more than a million.
Suburban and midsize metros are at the center of metros with a population of 250,000 to a million.
Rural and small towns are rural areas and metros with a population of less than 250,000.
Virginia 7th District Flipped to Democrats
Suburbs of Richmond
Former CIA operative
The Virginia 7th District spans 10 counties — seven of which are suburban. The vote-heavy suburbs flipped from a Trump win in 2016 to a Democratic win Tuesday, and that carried the race.
Virginia 5th District Stayed Republican
Charlottesville to Danville
Journalist and author
Former Air Force intelligence officer
The Virginia 5th District spans 23 localities — 17 of which are rural or small towns and hold the most votes. The Republican won with a higher vote percentage that was better than Trump’s.
White and nonwhite areas
Across racial lines, Republicans won handily in areas that are more than 90 percent white, but by less than half of Trump’s margin. And in majority nonwhite areas, Democratic candidates also won by less than Hillary Clinton two years ago. Both shifts may be related to relative declines in turnout for minority as well as rural voters.
Kansas 3rd District Flipped to Democrats
Suburbs of Kansas City
Lawyer, former White House fellow
The Kansas 3rd District's majority-white midsection, which holds the most votes, swung from a Trump win to a Democratic one. The southern section, more than 90 percent white but with few voters, went Republican 2 to 1, while the northern portion shifted to a 39-point margin for the Democrat.
Blue collar and white collar
A setback for congressional Republicans was widely expected because of polling and the nations election history. Tuesday’s midterm was the fourth in the past quarter-century that switched power in the House to the party that had just lost a presidential race. Republicans won control of the chamber in 1994, two years after Democrat Bill Clinton’s win, and again in 2010, two years after Democrat Barack Obama’s. Democrats last won control in 2006, two years after Republican George W. Bush won his second term.
Still, the battleground shift in the direction of Democrats may be notable because it appeared to play out across blue-collar areas that surged for Trump two years ago. In battleground areas, primarily in the Midwest, where more than a fifth of workers are in factories, Republican margins slid to an average of 17 points, down from 25.
Where less than half of adults continued education beyond high school, the Republican margin dipped to 12 points from 18.
Manufacturing includes areas where at least 20 percent of workers are in the manufacturing industry.
Professional, technical, finance includes areas where at least 20 percent of workers are in information technology, telecommunications, scientific, legal, banking and related industries.
About this story
Sources: Election results from Associated Press, David Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections and state election authorities; demographic data from ESRI; mapping data from Census Bureau and state election authorities; urban-rural groups based on National Center for Health Statistics categories.
Election results for 2018 are preliminary and unofficial; 2016 election results from South Carolina and Nebraska included Election Day voting only.
Originally published Nov. 7, 2018.