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These Counties Backed Every President Since Reagan


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These Counties Backed Every President Since Reagan

https://www.wsj.com/articles/these-counties-backed-every-president-since-reagan-11570786200?mod=hp_lead_pos5

At a time of deep political division in the American electorate, a small group of counties across the nation has shown extraordinary political flexibility, voting for the winner in every presidential election since 1980.

These 19 counties—well less than 1% of the nation’s total—have in the last 10 elections backed Republicans for the White House six times and Democrats four times.

Political scientists are quick to point out that there’s no perfect presidential bellwether. Past success in picking a winner doesn’t promise accuracy in the future.

From Reagan to Trump, a Perfect Record

The 19 counties that have sided with the ultimate winner in every presidential election since 1980 are scattered across the country. Wisconsin, a top 2020 battleground, has the most of any state with four.

Margin of victory for perfect counties 2016

Voted Democrat in

majority of elections

since 1980

Split vote for both

parties in elections

since 1980

Voted Republican in

majority of elections

since 1980

Of the 19 counties that have tracked the presidential winner, all have swung both Democrat and Republican, with the difference in the margin of victory widening since 2000.

The margin of victory was 1 pct. pt. in 2000 for Juneau County, Wis.

In 2008, Richland County, Wis., backed Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain by almost 21 pct. pts

Juneau County

backed Trump

by 26 pct. pts.

Margin of victory for perfect counties 2016

Split vote for both

parties in elections

since 1980

Voted Democrat in

majority of elections

since 1980

Voted Republican in

majority of elections

since 1980

Of the 19 counties that have tracked the presidential winner, all have swung both Democrat and Republican, with a growing difference in margin of victory. widening since 2000.

The margin of victory was 1 pct. pt. in 2000 for Juneau County, Wis.

In 2008, Richland County, Wis., backed Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain by almost 21 pct. pts

Juneau County

backed Trump

by 26 pct. pts.

Margin of victory for perfect counties 2016

Split vote for both

parties in elections

since 1980

Voted Democrat in

majority of elections

since 1980

Voted Republican in

majority of elections

since 1980

Of the 19 counties that have tracked the presidential winner, all have swung both Democrat and Republican, with the difference in the margin of victory widening since 2000.

The margin of victory was 1 pct. pt. in 2000 for Juneau County, Wis.

In 2008, Richland County, Wis., backed Democrat Barack Obama over

Republican John McCain by almost 21 pct. pts.

Juneau County

backed Trump

by 26 pct. pts.

Voted Democratic in majority of elections

since 1980

Voted Republican in majority of elections

since 1980

Split vote between parties

Of the 19 counties that have tracked the presidential winner, all have swung both Democrat and Republican, with the difference in the margin of victory widening since 2000.

The margin of victory was 1 pct. pt. in 2000 for Juneau County, Wis.

In 2008, Richland County, Wis. swung Democratic by 21 pct. pts.

Still, these counties may offer lessons for the 2020 presidential election, illustrating the types of places President

Trump

would likely need to win again in order to keep the White House—and that Democrats might have to flip to take it back from him.

Picture of a Perfect County

These bellwether counties often share demographic similarities such as being older and much less diverse than the national average.

Percentage with a bachelor’s degree or higher

A Wall Street Journal analysis shows that the counties with “perfect” voting records from 1980-2016 largely have educational attainment levels below the national average, and they all saw slower-than-average population growth between 2010 and 2018. All but one of the counties have median household incomes below the national average, and they tend to be older and much less diverse than the nation as a whole.

From an economic standpoint, they are a mixed bag. Just more than half had unemployment rates above the national average for July, while some were well below that benchmark.

Wisconsin, a battleground Mr. Trump narrowly won in 2016, has four of these counties, the most of any state.

Journal reporters visited four such counties across the country and spoke with dozens of voters to understand what makes them so politically nimble and to get a sense of the mood ahead of the 2020 election.

Richland County

LONE ROCK, Wis.—Randy and

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Shelly Schmidt

run the biggest dairy operation in Richland County, milking 3,000 cows three times a day on a $1.6 million rotary parlor that holds 72 animals at a time.

They both voted for President Trump in 2016 and would like to do so again. They just aren’t sure they can afford it.

“Having 16 trade wars at a time is a problem,” Mr. Schmidt said during a rare break on a farm that has been in his family for three generations. “It’s dug deep into our pockets.”

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