While that’s the biggest shift we saw in the 2016 election, it’s hardly the only one. According to data compiled by the good folks at Daily Kos Elections, congressional districts across the country that normally move a few points from one presidential election to the next suddenly shifted … well … bigly.
Margins shifted by 10 points or more — toward Trump or toward Hillary Clinton — in 119 out of 435 districts. That's more than 1 our of every 4 districts.
Looking at the biggest shifts confirms just about everything we thought we knew about Trump’s win. The districts the moved big toward Trump tend to be more rural, blue-collar, heavily white districts where culturally conservative Democrats still linger. The districts that moved the most toward Clinton were diverse, suburban, more affluent and highly educated. Oh, and more Mormon. (More on that later.)
Case in point: Minnesota. If you look at a red-versus-blue map of U.S. congressional districts, Minnesota will instantly stand out. It’s basically the one place in the Midwest where Democrats still hold the big (square mileage-wise) rural districts. In fact, they hold all three of them in the state — one in southern Minnesota, one in western Minnesota, and one in northern Minnesota, which is home to the Iron Range.
All three of these districts shifted between 16 and 21 points for Trump last year. President Obama won two of them in 2012; Trump carried all three by double digits. And the western and northern Minnesota districts were both in top four as far as pro-Trump shifts.
Contrast that with Rep. Erik Paulsen’s (R-Minn.) fabulous suburban district west of Minneapolis (which this Fix writer once called home). There, just four years after Obama eked out a narrow win, Clinton carried the district by 10 points.
So three rural, Democratic-held districts shift big for Trump, and one suburban, Republican-held district shifts big for Clinton. These trends follow throughout the country.
The other biggest pro-Trump shifts came in the Scranton-based 17th district in Pennsylvania, the Flint-based 5th district in Michigan, two districts that neighbor Ohio's 6th, and four districts in Iowa and Wisconsin that bear plenty of similarities to those rural Minnesota districts.
|District||Member||Party||Trump margin ’16||Romney margin ’12||Pro-Trump shift|
The biggest pro-Clinton shifts, meanwhile, came in Utah, where third-party candidate Evan McMullin siphoned off plenty of conservative voters and reduced the GOP’s margins of victories by 25 to 35 points in all four districts. Those were the four biggest pro-Clinton — or more aptly, anti-Trump — shifts in the country.
Aside from those unusual cases, Clinton improved upon Obama’s margins in the suburbs of Houston (3 of the 25 biggest pro-Clinton shifts), Dallas (3), Chicago (3), Atlanta (2), Washington D.C. (2), and up and down California, where she did especially well in Orange County.
|District||Member||Party||Clinton margin ’16||Obama margin ’16||Pro-Clinton shift|
|TX-07||John Abney Culberson||(R)||1.4||-21.3||22.7|
The point is that the 2016 election forced us to rejigger some of our preconceptions about what states and districts are blue, red and in-between. An unorthodox candidate at the top of either ticket can shift votes — both for and against their party — even though our country remains hugely partisan and swing voters are supposed to be an endangered species.
As these districts show, these swing voters do exist — in very specific areas and circumstances.
(And make sure to check out all the data at Daily Kos Elections. Those guys have done yeoman’s work collecting all of this.)