The Establishment has forcefully pushed the explanation that Clinton lost due the fact that “working class whites” voted for Trump because they are racist. I was surprised to hear this theory, because as a poor white person, I know that the rich always vote for Republicans and the poor have very consistently voted for Democrats. This holds in exit poll data back into 1984 (we’ll talk about the income data and exit polls in general in a separate post, but that data can be found here). This year, Clinton only won those making 50,000 a year, while losing the other income groups.
Some have noticed that Trump won more uneducated voters, and called these people working class. This seems strange for two reasons
- Trump also won the educated white vote.
- Only 30 percent of the country has a BA and BA’s are no guarantee of social status in a country where there is limited social mobility
More detailed contextual information is here. After seeing these arguments, it was suggested that Clinton won the cities, where the poor are assumed to be nonwhite (there are in fact, poor whites in urban areas, I used to be one), while Trump won rural, white voters living in poverty. This theory will be deconstructed by looking at the precinct by precinct data. That data, which goes beyond exit polls to actual vote totals, can be found using this link. Please send the LA Times money for being kind enough to make big data accessible to everyone.
Rural, White, Poor and Voting in Mass for Clinton: Two Quiet Mountain Towns
Today we will be talking about two white mountain towns in the Sierra Nevadas of California. Much of my extended family lives in Grass Valley, California, so I spent some time in my youth with my white and mixed race cousins running around the beautiful forests. It is remote, rural and deeply poor. Nevada City could be its mirror, except it lies closer to the even more socially conservative territories in Northwest Nevada.
Let’s talk about Grass Valley first. Please note that all of my data for income and race comes from the census, which you can find here. Grass Valley is 89.4 percent white. It has a BA rate well below the national average at 23.4 percent. The median family income is 33, 325 and almost a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. Based on this data, who do you think won Grass Valley?
Clinton won Grass Valley with 68 percent of the vote.
When I saw this, I thought perhaps it was a fluke, and I had selected a city I knew well as part of a cognitive bias. So then I started looking at the rest of the map in that region, and even further up North in what has usually been a known socially conservative area of the state. To look closely at just one example, we’ll be looking at Nevada City.
Nevada City is 94.7 percent white. Which is five percentage points higher than the white population in Grass Valley, which was already nearly 90 percent white. It is more rural than Grass Valley as well, with a smaller population and significantly smaller density per-capita. It is also poorer than Grass Valley, with a median income of 23, 705. So to summarize, it is whiter, more rural, poorer, and in more notoriously socially conservative territory.
Clinton won Nevada City with 79 percent of the vote.
Clinton won the poorer, whiter, more rural, less educated city with almost ten percentage points.
Tomorrow, we’ll be talking about an interesting neighborhood comparison on the coast of California, with a high education and middle class population. It is also majority white. Later we’ll be discussing some of the data in Sacramento, as well as exit polls over time and the fascinating correlations with health and the voting patterns of the poor.