The territories where the Republican swept have things in common: they are almost always rural and whiter, with low incomes, they have fewer university students and more workers in the industry
The United States elections have been relatively even, as was the case with the 2016 elections. But this tie situation does not represent what occurs in most of the country’s counties, where polarization runs deep: 62% of voters live in territories where a candidate has won by 33 points, that is, with twice the votes of his rival. Many people hardly have neighbors who vote differently: 5% live in counties where Biden swept (4 to 1) and another 3% live in counties where Donald Trump swept.
Below we analyze what those extreme territories are like. We take the electoral results in the 3,000 counties that make up the national territory and separate them into six groups, according to who won and by how much. In one limit are the places where Biden won by 60 points, and in the other those where his Republican rival did. The counties where the Republican candidate won, as we will see, are more rural and whiter, have lower incomes (although they are not always the poorest), fewer university students, and more workers in industry, construction or the field.
Trump swept rural areas
It is the clearest axis. Counties where the Republican wins by 60 points or more are always sparse places, with a weighted average of 20 people per square kilometer. Instead, Biden’s fiefdoms are cities, where the average density exceeds 6,000 inhabitants per square kilometer. The gap also exists in the most even counties. The territories that Biden won, but without a clear victory (by less than 33 points), are twice as dense as those where Trump did.
The heart of New York is the densest territory in the country and also one of the most Democratic. Esmeralda County, in the desert southwest of Nevada, is one of the reddest – Trump got five times as many votes as Biden – and also one of the least dense, covering almost 10,000 square kilometers and only 826 inhabitants. As seen in the graph, Republicans win in vastly more counties than Democrats, but they are less populous: their ladder is built on small rungs.
Whites in favor of Trump
Republican fiefdoms also stand out because they are majority white. In counties where the outgoing president quadruples his rival, nearly 90% of the people are white. At the other extreme, in the places that voted massively for Biden, the majority of the population belongs to some racial minority. Again, the gap is also observed in the border counties, where the candidates won by narrow margins: where Trump did, the whites are 77% and where Biden did, 60%.
In the blue counties there is more variety: there are some with a white majority, many mixed and others where whites are the minority. This is the case of the Bronx, in New York, where Biden swept and where 82% of the people are African American or of Latino origin. In contrast, the ethnic-regional composition of Trump’s fiefdoms is sharply white. The county where he won by the most difference is Roberts County (Texas), in which 91% of the population is white. The fourth is Garfield County (Montana), where whites are 99%.
Trump is more successful where there are fewer university students
The Republican won in just three counties where the majority of the people are college students, while Biden won in the remaining twenty. Of the 607 counties in which Trump swept, only 15 have a 25% college population and there are none that reach 40%. Biden swept 30 counties, of which 19 are over 25% college and 10 are over 40%.
Trump dominates in rural counties around small towns in the Southeast, where college graduates are often fewer, like Clinton County, Kentucky – which has a misleading name. They are regions with a lower income than the prosperous Democratic urban areas. However, the relationship between income, education and social class is more complicated than it might appear at first glance.
The counties where Trump easily wins are the least rich, but not the poorest