St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Analysis of 2016 presidential election in St. Louis

To most of us who live in St. Louis, Democrat Hillary Clinton seemed to be cruising to an easy win. Almost everyone we knew seemed to be for her, some enthusiastically and others readily settling for her as the obvious antidote to Republican Donald Trump. Our Republican friends couldn't stand Trump and were defecting.

And then, WHAM! Trump pierced the "blue wall" and rode Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan to an Electoral College landslide. Secretary Clinton's 2-point win in the meaningless popular vote was a mere consolation prize. Here in Missouri, despite how it seemed here, Trump won the state by 19 points and carried the entire statewide Republican ticket (including embattled Sen. Roy Blunt) in with him.

As was the case in 2004, when Democrat John Kerry seemed assured of making George W. Bush a one-term president like his father, we in St. Louis suffered from myopia. We had no clue what was going on out in the sticks. It turned out that, even more than in 2004 (or any other year for that matter), rural and exurban Missouri went big time for the Republican nominee.

An examination of results in St. Louis wards and townships shows an entirely different story. (I expect a similar analysis of Kansas City wards and Jackson, Clay and Platte County townships would show something similar.) In metropolitan areas in Missouri, there were clear patterns of both  blue-collar Democrats defecting to Trump and highly educated Republicans abandoning him. Here under "The Bubble," NeverTrumpers won that battle.

With national and state exit polls reporting that 8% of blacks (and 13% of black men) and 52% (up 5 points from 2012) nationally (and 59% in Missouri) of voters without a college degree voting for Trump, I thought he might do much better here (especially with the first black president no longer being on the ballot). But the exit poll results were not reflected in election returns here. Trump won only 2% of the vote in segregated black wards. (Returns from other black majority wards and all black majority townships are too diluted with blue-collar whites to be a meaningful measure.) All told, Secretary Clinton fared nearly as well here as President Obama had four years ago. Both Clinton and Trump lost ground here compared to Obama and Romney. Third-party candidates and write-ins picked up the slack. Clinton dropped more in the city and Trump dropped more in the county.

Patterns of both Trump and NeverTrump strength emerged in the ward-by-ward and township-by-township data, especially when compared to past presidential elections.

Where NeverTrumpers powered Clinton gains

First, let's examine Secretary Clinton's areas of relative strength compared to Obama. On the whole, in the St. Louis area, defections of NeverTrump Republicans overwhelmed the counter-movement of blue-color Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents voting for Trump. As accurately predicted by polls, these were largely areas with more highly educated voters, a national demographic that favored Clinton. Most were in Republican townships where Trump's drop was larger than Clinton's gain. Her biggest comparative success was in Clayton Township (western Clayton, Ladue and Rock Hill), formerly the county's most Republican township. It followed the national Republican decline in old-money trust-fund neighborhoods (but about a generation behind the east and west coasts) so that by the turn of the 21st Century, few Republican candidates carried the township. Sen. John McCain won 43.7% in 2008 and Mitt Romney claimed a narrow plurality win in the township with 49.7% in 2012. But Trump's numbers plummeted 13 points to 36.51% while Clinton picked up 7 points over Obama.

Clinton gains and Trump drops aren't evident at first in Republican areas because Trump still carried many of them. But when compared to 2012, in addition to Clayton Township, Clinton scored big gains and Trump suffered significant deterioration in Missouri River Township (Town & Country), where Clinton gained 6 points and Trump dropped 12, followed by Jefferson Township (Webster Groves) (Clinton up 5 points, Trump down 11), Chesterfield Township (Clinton up 5 points, Trump down 10), Creve Coeur and Lafayette Townships (Clinton up 3 1/2 points and Trump down 9 in both), Hadley Township (eastern portions of Clayton, Richmond Heights and University City) (Clinton up 3 points and Trump down 8 1/2), Maryland Heights and Wild Horse Townships (Clinton up 2 1/2 points and Trump down 7 1/2 in both), the City's 28th Ward (Central West End) (Clinton up 2 points and Trump down 7), Ward 16 (St. Louis Hills) (Clinton up 2 points and Trump down 6 1/2) and Ward 19 (Grand Center and St. Louis University) (Clinton up 2 1/2 points and Trump down 5 1/2). In all but three of those jurisdictions, as well as in all of the city's African American wards, Trump ran worse than every other statewide Republican on the ballot. If you live in any of these areas, your expectations of a Clinton win were based on an accurate perception of what was really happening in your area.

Blue-collar gains for Trump

What about white voters without degrees? In a mirror image of what happened in Republican parts of St. Louis County, Trump gains and Clinton drops aren't evident at first in blue-collar areas because Clinton still carried them. Nevertheless, blue-collar whites are probably the reason Trump improved over Romney's numbers (and Clinton underperformed Obama) in Wards 9 (Benton Park and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods), 10 (The Hill), 11 (Carondelet and the Patch), 13 (Holly Hills), 20 (Marine Villa and the area south of Cherokee Street) and 25 (Dutchtown), all in south St. Louis. Trump showed similar improvement in Airport (St. Ann), Midland (Overland) and Lemay (Lemay and Mehlville) Townships in St. Louis County. The most significant were the 11th Ward and Lemay Township, both of which provided Trump with a 3-point gain and Clinton with a 7-point drop. The improvement was marginal (about half the 5-point increase in the exit polls), but was notable because it ran counter to the trend in the city and county. Those results were also probably diluted by NeverTrumpers in those neighborhoods moving in the other direction. Trump didn't trail the entire Republican ticket in any of these Trump-improvement wards or townships, running second-best in the 11th Ward and (except for the racially diverse 9th and 20th Wards) no worse than median in the others. As was the case in the city's 14th Ward (Bevo), Trump's improvement in south county was probably negated or diluted by a significant Bosnian Muslim population that I think feels threatened by Trump's policies on national security. However, the significant Latino presence in the 20th Ward did not retard Trump's improvement there (consistent with exit polls amazingly showing Trump improving slightly over Romney's performance with Latinos).

In addition, Trump's poor showing in black wards was actually better than either Romney or McCain had managed against Obama the prior two elections. Secretary Clinton dropped nearly 3 points there, but Trump was only able to pick up 3/4 of a point. The impact of the black vote going all the way up to 2% was minor. More significant was the 29% drop in turnout in the segregated African American wards, reducing Clinton's margin there by nearly 10,000 votes.

Outstate voters powered Trump's big win

How did Trump win the state? Outstate voters love him. Apparently most of the blue collar voters who broke for Trump live in Missouri's rural counties and the exurban "collar counties" surrounding St. Louis and Kansas City. No significant erosion of Trump's base was evident in those results, except in counties containing either a major city (like Springfield) or a college campus (like Mizzou or Truman State). In the exurban counties, Trump won 67% of the vote. Even Jefferson County south of St. Louis, long a Democrat stronghold, went 65% for Trump. Rural voters love Trump even more, as Trump outperformed the rest of the statewide Republican ticket in most rural counties. Trump won 75% of  voters in rural counties (excluding cosmopolitan Greene County and rural counties with college campuses). He topped 80% in 20 rural counties, including two (Mercer (a "Dukakis county") in northern Missouri and Bollinger west of Cape Girardeau) where he topped 85%. That's more dominant than Democrats are in the City of St. Louis! All of these percentages dwarf the numbers of prior Republican presidential nominees.I am planning a later post that examines the county-by-county returns more thoroughly and puts them in historical context, but I still have numbers to crunch.

In short, the exurban and rural Missouri surge for Trump overwhelmed NeverTrump trends in metropolitan St. Louis and Kansas City.


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