President Trump has repeatedly argued that his views of the shutdown are not colored by his assumption that most of those affected are Democrats, which is a questionable assertion. The claim itself, though, is a tell: Clearly this is something that has occurred to Trump at some point during the extended shutdown fight. This is a habit for him, insisting on talking about something that he probably should not.
Regardless, new analysis from Pew Research Center adds an interesting bit of context to that question.
Pew’s Bradley Jones calculated the number of federal employees who live in each congressional district and used those numbers to figure out which party’s representatives represented a greater density of federal employees. The results were surprising. The average number of federal workers in districts held by Republicans was 10,400. The average in Democrat-held districts was 10,800 — a negligible difference.
Jones shared his analysis with The Post, allowing us to overlay another interesting bit of data to the question: How did the districts vote in 2016? DailyKos has compiled district-by-district assessments of the 2016 vote, allowing us to compare the density of federal employees (as a function of the overall population) to the overall 2016 vote.
Comparing that vote to the density of federal employees shows a generally even distribution. Of the 43 densest districts — those with estimated federal employee totals making up at least 3 percent of the population — 20 voted for Trump and 23 for Hillary Clinton. Of the three districts with the heaviest densities of federal employees (all in Virginia and Maryland), Clinton won two.
But, as Jones notes, this analysis includes districts that are home to military bases. Exclude those districts, and things shift.
Of those districts with more than 3 percent of the population employed by the federal government that don’t include military bases, Clinton won four of five. The densest district without a base: Virginia’s 11th.
We can express this a bit differently, looking at how each district compares to the median and average densities of federal employees. Looking at every district, those with an above-average density of federal employees voted for Trump by an average of 3 points — 9 points more Republican than below-average-density districts.
But exclude districts with military bases and that flips: Those with an above-average density of federal employees voted for Clinton by 2 points — 8 points more Democratic than districts with below-average densities of federal employees.
What these data do not assess are the numbers of employees in each district that are affected by the government shutdown. It is hard to assess Trump’s assertion that furloughed employees are more heavily Democratic because the effects of the shutdown are so broad and varied between departments.
The data do paint an interesting picture, though: Places with more federal employees were more likely to back Trump than Clinton in 2016 — which opposes how Trump presents the situation.