How Trump Won Michigan (with maps!)

Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election was capped off by winning Michigan. The vote total was
Trump 2279543 (47.50%)
Clinton 2268893 (47.27%)
The margin was only 10704 votes. Michigan had the closest percentage margin of any state in the nation.

Analyzing the election results nationwide leads to four basic observations:

1. Trump won huge margins in rural areas.
2. Trump improved significantly in downscale (white working class) areas.
3. Trump did poorly in upscale (wealthy, highly educated) areas.
4. Clinton won blacks by large margins, but turnout was significantly down.
The following maps show Trump/Clinton and Romney/Obama by county.
Trump did significantly better than Romney in the rural Northeast and Midwest.  This allowed him to pick up five states (and Maine 2) in this region.  Trump did worse than Romney in many suburban counties.  The following map compares Trump and Romney’s performance by county.  More red means Trump performed better.
Zooming in to Michigan, we compare Romney 2012 and Trump 2016.
Trump overperformed in most rural counties, particularly in northern Michigan and the Thumb.  He underperformed in Kent, Ottawa, and Washtenaw counties.
To better understand Trump’s performance, consider the following map of southern Michigan.  More red indicates a higher Trump percentage, and more blue/black indicates a higher Clinton percentage.  The key is
DarkRed >65%
Red 60-65
Salmon 55-60
Pink 50-55
LightBlue 45-50
DeepSkyBlue 40-45
CornflowerBlue 35-40
SlateBlue 30-35
Blue 25-30
DarkBlue 20-25
MidnightBlue 15-20
Black 0-15
Results are broken down to the precinct level, except in Wayne, Macomb, Ingham, Livingston, and Montcalm Counties, where they are broken down to the municipality.  All maps use 2-party totals.  Some results are approximate due to changes in precinct lines.
Rural areas are overwhelmingly red; cities are blue to black.
Let’s take a closer look at some key areas of the state, starting with Detroit.
Year – GOP (2-party %) and Dem (2-party %):
2000 – 15688 (5.22%), 282111 (93.88%)
2004 – 19343 (5.93%), 305258 (93.65%)
2008 –   8888 (2.65%), 325534 (96.99%)
2012 –   6018 (2.09%), 281743 (97.63%)
2016 –   7682 (3.11%), 234871 (94.95%)
The percentages are about the same, but D turnout was down 46872 votes in 2016.
Here is Wayne county, broken down by municipality.
Here are the numbers for Wayne outside Detroit.
Year – GOP (%) and Dem (%):
2000 – 207333 (45.5%), 248303 (54.5%)
2004 – 238407 (44.7%), 294789 (55.3%)
2008 – 210694 (38.6%), 334551 (61.4%)
2012 – 207796 (39.8%), 314103 (60.2%)
2016 – 221311 (43.7%), 284573 (56.3%)
Trump improved by 43045 votes in Wayne outside Detroit.  Trump gained in Downriver, a downscale union area.  Trump declined in upscale areas – the Grosse Pointes, and Plymouth/Northville.
Macomb County, by municipality:
   Year – GOP (%) and Dem (%):
2004 – 202166 (50.2%), 196160 (48.7%)
2008 – 187663 (44.8%), 223784 (53.4%)
2012 – 191913 (47.5%), 208016 (51.5%)
2016 – 224665 (53.6%), 176317 (42.1%)
Trump gained 64451 votes over 2012.  He improved substantially in the downscale union areas of the county.
Oakland County by precinct:
   Year – GOP (%) and Dem (%):
2004 – 316633 (49.3%), 319387 (49.8%)
2008 – 276956 (42.0%), 372566 (56.5%)
2012 – 296514 (45.4%), 349002 (53.4%)
2016 – 289203 (43.2%), 343070 (51.3%)
Trump lost upscale areas, including Bloomfield, West Bloomfield, Troy and Novi, where Republicans usually win.  He gained in Waterford.  The following compares Romney (2012) and Trump (2016).
Genesee County:
Year – GOP (%) and Dem (%):
2004 – 83870 (39.2%), 128334 (60.0%)
2008 – 72451 (32.9%), 143927 (65.5%)
2012 – 71808 (35.4%), 128978 (63.6%)
2016 – 84175 (42.9%), 102751 (52.4%)
Trump improved by 38594 votes over 2012.  Trump gained significantly in the downscale union-heavy suburbs of Flint.  He won Burton and the entire outer ring (except Grand Blanc).  Republicans came within 4% of picking up state house district 50 in the suburbs, which was completely unexpected.  Here is a closer look at Flint.
St. Clair:
Trump even won Port Huron.
Saginaw:
Trump won everything except the minority areas.
Bay:
 Midland:
In past elections, the city of Midland has been more Republican than the surrounding areas.  Not this time.
Tri-cities:
Isabella:

Schiawasee:

Clinton:
Eaton:
Ingham by municipality:
Washtenaw:
Monroe:
Lenawee:
Jackson:
Southwest Michigan:
Calhoun:
Kalamazoo:
St. Joseph:
Cass:

Berrien:

Van Buren:
Allegan:
Kent:
Year – GOP (%) and Dem (%):
2004 – 171201 (59.1%), 116909 (40.4%)
2008 – 148336 (48.9%), 149909 (49.4%)
2012 – 155925 (53.2%), 133408 (45.5%)
2016 – 148180 (48.3%), 138683 (45.2%)
Trump declined by 13020 votes in Kent County.  He lost Kentwood and did poorly in Wyoming.

Muskegon:

Ottawa:
 Year – GOP (%) and Dem (%):
2004 – 92048 (71.6%), 35552 (27.6%)
2008 – 83330 (61.2%), 50828 (37.3%)
2012 – 88166 (66.6%), 42737 (32.3%)
2016 – 88467 (62.3%), 44973 (31.7%)
Ottawa County is usually the most Republican in Michigan.  Why did Trump decline in Kent and Ottawa?  Ottawa, Kent, Allegan, and Missaukee are the only Dutch majority counties.  Dutch Americans tend to be Calvinists (Reformed/CRC) and solid Republicans.
Consider this list of Trump’s best counties in 2016.
73.8% Missaukee
70.9% Hillsdale
70.0% Oscoda
69.9% Sanilac
69.8% Montmorency
69.3% Kalkaska
69.2% Osceola
68.2% Luce
68.0% Alcona
67.2% Huron
67.1% Newaygo
66.8% Branch
66.6% Lapeer
66.4% Tuscola
66.0% Otsego
65.7% Ogemaw
65.4% Wexford
65.3% Dickinson
65.1% Gladwin
64.3% Arenac
Ottawa County dropped to number 32!  Livingston dropped to 34 and Allegan to 48!
Twelve of Trump’s 20 best counties are in the northern lower peninsula.  Four of the top 14 are in the Thumb.  Two (Luce, Dickinson) are in the UP.  Two (Hillsdale, Branch) are on the IN border.  Trump got 60-70% in 43 of 83 Michigan counties.  He got 50-60% in 23 counties.  These are almost all rural areas.
I have explained where Trump got his votes, but not how he got them.  Trump appealed to rural and working class voters with immigration restriction, opposition to free trade agreements, and concern for manufacturing jobs.  These voters were alienated from the democrats due to social justice warriors and environmentalism.
Bernie Sanders’ primary win in Michigan foreshadowed trouble for Hillary.  Rural democrats are not primarily socialists.  Many were clearly disenchanted with Hillary.
Why did Trump do better than Romney, who had a somewhat similar profile (rich businessman, Washington outsider)?  Rick Snyder won Michigan in 2010 on a similar platform.  Republican Michigander writes:

“The other thing that helped Snyder is that while he was a businessman, he ran as a CEO of Gateway. People remember Gateway Computers. That’s a difference with your venture capitalist types who are widely distrusted (with Dan Gilbert a major exception due to his Detroit investments and building). The Midwest respects builders. You’ll hear a different opinion of George Romney than Mitt. Builders built America and builders built Michigan. This is the land of Henry Ford, Roger Penske, Ransom Olds, Mike Illitch, Louis Chevrolet, Pete Karmanos, Fred Meijer, Tom Monaghan, and the Dodge brothers. It’s the cornerstone of this state and one of the rare things that can take root in the very different political factions in this state that are extremely tough to unite. It’s something our pols should remember in 2020 before either putting a bunch of money here, or before writing off altogether. The most important thing here is the job itself and the ability to do it.”

This obviously applies to Trump as well.
Trump’s winning coalition was laid out by several commentators.  Steve Sailer wrote after the 2000 election,

“The reason George W. Bush struggled so much to eke out a 271-267 win in the Electoral College … is not that he got crushed in the minority vote 77% to 21%. No, it`s that he commanded only a measly 54% of the white vote. …
What if Bush II had won 57% of the white vote? … he would have cruised to an Electoral College landslide of 367 to 171. …
So where could Bush have picked up an additional 3 percent of the white vote? The most obvious source: white union families. …
Immigration should be the perfect issue for the GOP to use to split the rank and file from their Democratic bosses.  Since union efforts cost Bush Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (at a minimum), you`d think that the GOP would be hot to win back the Reagan Democrats.”

After the 2012 election, he wrote

“Romney could have won the Electoral College in what can be called the Big Ten states … He did win Indiana, and he lost Obama’s home state of Illinois badly. The other six states in this region, however, all slipped through his fingers: Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
In each of these Slippery Six states, Romney won at least 45 percent of the vote. … If Romney, rather than Obama, had won all six, he’d be President. …
According to Reuters, Romney lost the Slippery Six states because … he did badly there among white voters—winning only 52 percent, six points worse than nationally. …
But, how much did Romney offer working class whites in this swing region? Did they have much cause for hope that he’d take a strong stand against legal and illegal immigration?”

“These voters were largely downscale, Northern, rural whites. In other words, H. Ross Perot voters.”

“One option is to go after these downscale whites. … It means abandoning some of its more pro-corporate stances. This GOP would have to be more “America first” on trade, immigration and foreign policy; less pro-Wall Street and big business in its rhetoric; more Main Street/populist on economics.”

Demographics are the biggest factor affecting election results.  For example, some areas have voted for the same party since the Civil War, until very recently.  Dutch Americans have voted conservatively since immigrating here.  Often, changes in election results are the results of demographic changes rather than ideological changes.
Demographic groups can change voting patterns (e.g. downscale whites going for Trump), but such changes are neither easy nor inevitable.  Democrats have been using immigration from left-leaning groups to bring about electoral victories they could not win by persuasion.  Trump and his supporters need to stop this for conservatism to remain viable in America.
Donald Trump is now the face of the Republican party.  His supporters should do what they can to encourage him to adopt sound conservative policies.  There are no permanent majorities.  Republicans should be careful not to overreach (as Obama did with Obamacare).  Conversely, Republicans should accomplish what they can while the opportunity exists, as democrats will come back sooner or later.
Republicans should welcome Trump’s downscale supporters into the party and try to address their concerns on trade and immigration while upholding conservative values.  Upscale voters were likely alienated by Trump’s rhetoric and character.  If Trump is successful, many will come back.  We should run candidates who emphasize competence to appeal to this demographic.
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19 Comments

  • rdelbov January 9, 2017 at 8:43 am

    amazing stuff=great RRH stuff

  • WingNightAlone January 9, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    This is incredible. Should spark some great maps. Thanks.


    24. Saint John-Rothesay. Consultant.

  • Republican Michigander January 9, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Great work. It looks like you took what I did and expanded it in spades.

    The thing amazing about this – “””Ottawa County dropped to number 32! Livingston dropped to 34 and Allegan to 48!”””

    Livingston actually gained (slightly) for Trump by percentage, but gained 5000 in raw votes (Hillary dropped here). Most bleeding was to 3rd parties.

    I did some micronumber crunching in my county. I think we (myself included) get caught up a bit on percentages and need to look more at raw vote totals.


    MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

    • Conservative First January 9, 2017 at 6:05 pm

      Percentages matter in areas that are competitive, but in very uncompetitive areas like Detroit, raw totals matter far more.

      • Republican Michigander January 9, 2017 at 6:19 pm

        I looked at my county.
        My county:
        Trump – 61.68%
        Romney – 61.10%
        Looks the same right?
        Trump – 65680, Romney – 60,083 , Obama 37,216, Clinton 34384

        That’s an 8600 vote spread, which is 3/4 of Trump’s victory in the entire state!


        MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

        • twinpines January 10, 2017 at 12:31 am

          The percentages that matter is 2-party vote percentages. The raw percentage is useless.


          AZ LD-20, Conservative Independent, not associated with either party.

  • Republican Michigander January 9, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    I still can’t believe that Trump won Burton, Wyandotte, Brownstown Twp, Sumpter Twp, Gogebic County, Durand (in Shiawasse County), all the rural D areas in Saginaw County (Albee Twp, etc), Clinton Twp, etc.


    MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

    • twinpines January 9, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      We need a bunch of trump clones now for the midwest. His performance in Michigan was beyond outstanding.


      AZ LD-20, Conservative Independent, not associated with either party.

      • Red Oaks January 9, 2017 at 7:03 pm

        It is impressive. The only thing that worries me is that I’m not sure that the Trump voter coalition translates well to state level elections. Much of Trump’s appeal to rural and white working class voters, as noted in the diary, was due to his views on immigration and trade. State level government can’t really do much about those issues so it’s hard to run on them the way Trump did. Performing more like a traditional Republican in Oakland and Dutch west MI while winning the rurals by smaller margins is probably a more realistic path to victory in the 2018 governor’s race (see Snyder’s 2014 re-election for an example).


        MI-03 Castle voter who now says Give Trump a chance

        • Jon January 9, 2017 at 7:53 pm

          Well, a governor candidate can pledge along with the legislature to ban “sanctuary cities” within the state.


          45, M, MO-02

        • Conservative First January 9, 2017 at 8:43 pm

          States can’t do anything about trade, but they can mandate E-verify and work with the feds to enforce immigration laws.

          • Red Oaks January 9, 2017 at 8:47 pm

            Fair enough and I would like to see any governor do those things both for political and policy reasons but it still isn’t practical to make immigration a major theme in state level races.


            MI-03 Castle voter who now says Give Trump a chance

            • FreedomJim January 9, 2017 at 11:41 pm

              I am another Castle voter and it will be interesting to see if candidates for governor emphasize sanctuary cities in 2018.

        • Republican Michigander January 10, 2017 at 12:40 pm

          I’d bet money that the next R governor candidate will not do as well as Trump in Genesee County. Flint water is an albatross around the R’s neck right now. The gas tax blowback as returned as well. That’s going to be trouble. Snyder’s approval ratings suck right now. (so does Granholm’s).

          Schuette is taking people to task over Flint. That helps there.
          I’m not sure Calley is running.
          I would keep an eye on some business outsider as well. He could sell if he was a builder with a record and doesn’t come off as a college MBA type (or the Bob’s from Office Space).

          Whitmer is the toughest opponent the R’s had since Granholm. I think Kildee would be even tougher.

          Whatever candidate runs, the message has to be about the little guy and good jobs (not Mcjobs). The trade message works since it goes back to jobs. Jobs is and has been the number one issue in Michigan for years. “It’s the economy, stupid” is issue 1, 2, and 3 here (trade, jobs). Taxes is 4th, and guns is probably a distant 5th.


          MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

          • twinpines January 10, 2017 at 12:49 pm

            I am not very optimistic about the governor’s race in 2018 in MI. The positive is that we should keep both the house and senate. A few losses in each is likely but not enough to lose either.


            AZ LD-20, Conservative Independent, not associated with either party.

            • Republican Michigander January 10, 2017 at 12:59 pm

              If we keep the Senate and House, but lose the governorship, we probably won’t be able to carve up Levin’s seat or votesink Lansing and Flint.


              MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

              • twinpines January 10, 2017 at 1:06 pm

                I’d be willing in a compromise to shore up our republicans and give up a seat. A 8-5 map would be a solid compromise and would prevent some ridiculous court drawn dem gerrymander.


                AZ LD-20, Conservative Independent, not associated with either party.

  • Conservative First January 11, 2017 at 2:04 am

    Here is my detailed analysis of Kalamazoo County.
    http://rrhelections.com/index.php/2017/01/11/2016-election-results-in-kalamazoo-county/

  • GerGOP January 24, 2017 at 7:19 am

    Beautiful, thank you!

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