Monday, October 26, 2020

Trumpism/Walkerism realigned Wisconsin voters in 2016 and 2018. So what changes in 2020?

Wanted to give your attention to an excellent breakdown by the Journal-Sentinel's Craig Gilbert of how Wisconsin voting patterns have changed across communities.

Gilbert says there are 5 different types of Wisconsin communities, based on size and location.
• “Principal cities” make up just over 30% of the statewide vote (using the 2016 presidential election). These include not just the big blue cities of Milwaukee and Madison, but lots of smaller and more purple cities such as Wausau and Green Bay.

• “Core suburbs” also make up 30% of the vote. This category includes most of the very Republican “WOW counties” (Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington). But the WOW counties are only about a third of the state’s suburban vote.

Other big components are the purple and blue suburbs within Milwaukee County, the very Democratic suburbs of Madison and the purple and red suburbs in the Fox Valley region around Green Bay and Appleton....

• “Exurbs and large towns” make up around 20% of the vote. These include less densely populated suburbs at the edge of metro areas and communities outside metro areas with 10,000 to 50,000 people.

• “Small towns” make up 10% of the 2016 vote. These communities have between 2,500 and 10,000 people and are overwhelmingly outside the Milwaukee and Madison TV markets.

• “Isolated rural” communities make up a little under 10% of the vote. These are very small places with no commuting ties to larger places.
In 2000, 2004, and 2012, these figures were mostly the same statewide, except for Barack Obama doing better in large cities in 2012 than Al Gore did in 2000 or 2004. And in 2008, Obama improved from the last 2 Dems in every type of community, which explains how he won the state by 14 points and how Democrats were able to get complete control of state government.

But 2016 marked a major shift in these patterns. Hillary Clinton had numbers in line with Obama's 2012 figuees in the 60% of the state that makes up major cities and core suburbs. But Donald Trump blew her out in the smaller communities, and that's how he was able to win the state by less than 1%.
Gilbert notes that these patterns repeated in 2018, where Scott Walker actually improved in smaller communities while doing notably worse in the rest of the state, resulting in Walker losing to Tony Evers by just over 1%. And Gilbert says polling indicates we will see more of this in 2020.
The 2018 mid-terms marked a continuation of these trends. Compared with his previous race in 2014, Walker lost a lot of ground in the cities and suburbs but improved his margins in the most rural communities. This year, the density divide remains in force. Marquette's polling (combining May through October) has Trump trailing Biden by 32 in the cities, splitting the suburbs, winning the exurbs and small towns by around 6, and winning the most rural communities by around 14.
Interestingly, today we got a new poll that UW-Madison did of Wisconsin (which had Biden winning by 9) and 2 other Big Ten-area battleground states, and it has a similar breakdown by type of community. Unfortunately, it's combined among the 3 states and not broken down individually. And we are seeing the same numbers.

Mich, Penn, Wis poll
Big City - Biden +67
Suburb - Biden +9
Small City - Biden +27
Small Town - Trump +2
Rural Area - Trump +23

I have a feeling the "Big Cities" in the UW poll are a bit bigger than what Gilbert lists. But you get the idea, and if Trump is only winning Small Towns by 2 and is losing the suburbs, he's basically done if those numbers hold in Wisconsin.

It's a good guide to look at, and it shows a number of paths to victory for Biden.

1. Increase turnout and margins in the big cities.
2. Make further gains in or even win the suburbs.
3. Not get blown out in smaller towns, and have those results be in line with 2000, 2004, and 2012.

And if all 3 are combined, that's how you get the type of double-digit blowout that could break the GOP's gerrymander at the state level. So why not compete everywhere? Because if it works anywhere, then Biden will win Wisconsin in 8 days.

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